Declared Righteous “for Life”
“Through one act of justification the result . . . is a declaring of them righteous for life.”—ROMANS 5:18.
1. Who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and how will their desire be fulfilled?
“HAPPY are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Such thirst for righteousness will be fully satisfied not only for those to whom “the kingdom of the heavens belongs” but also for those who “will possess the earth.” (Matthew 5:10; Psalm 37:29) Both classes share in the hope expressed by the apostle Peter when he wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) Yes, Jehovah God has promised a righteous new heavenly government, “the kingdom of the heavens,” and a righteous “new earth,” or human society in a paradise earth.
2. What relationship exists between Jehovah, righteousness, and our hope for a peaceful New Order?
2 But what exactly is to be understood by righteous new heavens and a righteous new earth? It means that both the new heavenly government and mankind on earth ruled by it must recognize God’s standard of right and wrong. Jehovah is “the abiding place of righteousness.” (Jeremiah 50:7) Righteousness is the very foundation of his sovereignty, or throne position in the universe. (Job 37:23, 24; Psalm 89:14) For there to be peace in the universe, Jehovah’s creatures have to recognize his right to establish the standards for what is righteous and for what is wicked. Conversely, our hope of a righteous New Order depends on Jehovah’s abiding by his standards.—Psalm 145:17.
3. In view of Jehovah’s absolute righteousness, what question comes to mind?
3 The question thus arises as to how the holy and righteous God Jehovah could have dealings with unrighteous sinners. (Compare Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13.) How could he, while remaining faithful to his exalted standards of righteousness, choose from among sinners those who are to share in the righteous governmental “new heavens” and accept as his friends those who will be a part of the righteous “new earth”? To answer this, we must understand the Biblical doctrine of justification, or declaration of righteousness.
A Merciful Credit Arrangement
4. Why is fallen mankind heavily indebted to God, and why can we not relieve ourselves of this debt?
4 In the Scriptures, sins are likened to debts. (See Matthew 6:12, 14; 18:21-35; Luke 11:4.) All men are sinners and are, therefore, heavily in debt before God. “The wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) Since they had been “sold under sin” by their forefather Adam, his descendants could do nothing to relieve themselves of this crushing debt. (Romans 7:14) Death of the debtor alone could wipe it out, “for he who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7) No good works done during a sinner’s lifetime could buy back what Adam lost, nor even give him a righteous standing before God.—Psalm 49:7, 9; Romans 3:20.
5. How did Jehovah provide relief for sinful mankind while still respecting his perfect justice?
5 How could Jehovah provide relief for fallen mankind without compromising his own standards of righteousness? The answer highlights Jehovah’s wisdom and undeserved kindness. The apostle Paul explains this beautifully in his letter to the Romans. He writes: “It is as a free gift that they [sinners] are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus. God set him forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. This was in order to exhibit his own righteousness, because he was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past while God was exercising forbearance; so as to exhibit his own righteousness in this present season, that he might be righteous even when declaring righteous the man that has faith in Jesus.”—Romans 3:24-26.
6. (a) How were Jehovah’s standards of justice satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice, and what is Jehovah thus willing to do? (b) How can God credit righteousness to the account of a person having faith?
6 By his undeserved kindness, Jehovah accepted Jesus’ sacrifice in behalf of Adam’s descendants. (1 Peter 2:24) It was an equivalent, or corresponding, sacrifice seeing that, as a perfect man, Jesus bought back what the perfect man Adam lost. (See Exodus 21:23; 1 Timothy 2:6.) Justice having been satisfied, Jehovah is lovingly willing to “wipe out,” or ‘blot out,’ the sins charged against the account of “the man that has faith in Jesus.” (Isaiah 44:22; Acts 3:19) If such a man remains faithful, not only does Jehovah refrain from ‘reckoning to him his trespasses’ but He actually credits righteousness to his account. (2 Corinthians 5:19) By means of this merciful credit arrangement, ‘many have been constituted righteous.’ (Romans 5:19) This is one aspect of justification, the act of God whereby a person is accounted guiltless. (Acts 13:38, 39) Who are the ones who have been justified, or declared righteous, during this system of things?
144,000 “Holy Ones”
7. In what way was Christ declared righteous, and what therefore became possible?
7 Naturally, Christ himself needed no credit of righteousness, since he was really righteous. (1 Peter 3:18) Having proved faithful unto death as a perfect man (“the last Adam”) and having sacrificed his right to life on earth, Jesus was resurrected by his Father, Jehovah. Jesus was “declared righteous in spirit,” that is, pronounced fundamentally righteous on his own merit and raised as “a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 3:16) By his sacrificial death, he provided the basis whereby Jehovah could credit righteousness to men and women of faith.—Romans 10:4.
8, 9. (a) Who are the first ones to benefit by a credit of righteousness, and why? (b) Who make up the “new heavens,” and over what will they rule?
8 Logically, those whom Jehovah chooses to make up the righteous “new heavens,” or Kingdom government under the King Jesus Christ, are the first to benefit fully from this merciful arrangement in this system of things. The book of Daniel depicts the ceremony in the heavens by which Christ, the Son of man, receives “rulership and dignity and kingdom,” so that “the peoples, national groups and languages [on earth] should all serve even him.” Then Daniel shows that “the kingdom and the rulership” are also given to “the holy ones of the Supreme One,” Jehovah.—Daniel 7:13, 14, 18, 27; compare Revelation 5:8-10.
9 The number of such “holy ones” chosen to rule with the Lamb Jesus Christ on the heavenly Mount Zion is revealed as being 144,000, “bought from among mankind.” (Revelation 14:1-5) These, together with Christ, make up the righteous “new heavens” of Jehovah’s new system of things.
Counted Righteous—How and Why?
10. (a) Which Bible book is the most explicit on justification, and to whom was it written? (b) Who are principally involved in the Bible doctrine of justification?
10 The Bible book that is doubtless the most explicit on God’s declaring men righteous is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Interestingly, he addressed this letter to those “called to be holy ones.” (Romans 1:1, 7) This explains why the doctrine of “justification,” or declaration of righteousness, as outlined by Paul, is used in connection with the 144,000 “holy ones.”
11. What relationship is there between faith, works, and justification?
11 The thrust of Paul’s reasoning in Romans is that neither Jew nor Gentile can obtain a righteous standing before God by means of works, whether these be done to conform to the Mosaic Law or simply out of respect for instinctive moral law. (Romans 2:14, 15; 3:9, 10, 19, 20) Jew and Gentile alike can be declared righteous only on the basis of faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Romans 3:22-24, 29, 30) However, the counsel in the closing chapters of Romans (12–15) shows that such faith must be backed up by godly works, as James also explains. (James 2:14-17) Such works simply prove that the justified Christian has the faith that is a prerequisite for justification by God.
12, 13. (a) Why do the 144,000 “holy ones” need to be declared righteous? (b) What do they do with the life rights they receive?
12 Still, for what impelling reason do Christians who are “called to be holy ones” need to be declared righteous? This is where the second aspect of justification comes into account, namely, God’s declaring a person worthy of life as His perfect human son. Due to the role they are called upon to play in the righteous “new heavens,” the 144,000 must renounce and sacrifice forever any hope of life everlasting on earth. (Psalm 37:29; 115:16) In this sense they die a sacrificial death. They ‘submit themselves to a death like Christ’s.’—Philippians 3:8-11.
13 Now, in line with the principle set forth in the Mosaic Law, any sacrifice presented to Jehovah must be without defect. (Leviticus 22:21; Deuteronomy 15:21) The 144,000 “holy ones” are spoken of as “righteous ones who have been made perfect.”—Hebrews 12:23.
Adopted as Spiritual Sons
14, 15. (a) What change with reference to sin do the 144,000 undergo? (b) In what way are they raised up to “a newness of life”?
14 While still living in the flesh, these “righteous ones” undergo a symbolic death. The apostle Paul explains: “Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it? Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life . . . because we know that our old personality was impaled with him, that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. For he who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”—Romans 6:2-7.
15 During their human life, the 144,000 “holy ones,” of whom only a small remnant remain on earth in this time of the end, ‘die with reference to sin.’ After their symbolic death, those “called to be holy ones” are raised up to “a newness of life.” Having declared them righteous, Jehovah is in a position to beget them by his spirit to be his spiritual “children.” They are “born again” and adopted as “God’s sons.” (John 3:3; Romans 8:9-16)a They become spiritual Israelites and are taken into the new covenant.—Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; Romans 9:6.
Heirs to Priesthood and Kingship
16. To what do the 144,000 “holy ones” become heirs?
16 As adopted spiritual “sons” of God, the 144,000 “holy ones” also become ‘heirs.’ (Galatians 4:5-7) Paul wrote to fellow spirit-begotten Christians: “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.” (Romans 8:17) What is Christ’s heritage? Jehovah has made him a King-Priest “according to the manner of Melchizedek forever.” (Hebrews 6:19, 20; 7:1) As “joint heirs” with Christ, spirit-begotten Christians are also anointed by Jehovah as spiritual priests. (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Peter 2:9) Furthermore, one of the ultimate objects of their being declared righteous by Jehovah is for them later to “rule as kings in life through the one person, Jesus Christ.”—Romans 5:17.
17. (a) Although declared righteous, what do anointed Christians need to do daily? (b) How do they receive their reward?
17 While yet on earth, these anointed Christians, although declared righteous, still have to fight their sinful tendencies. (Romans 7:15-20) They need Christ’s blood to cleanse them from their daily sins of imperfection. (1 John 1:7; 2:1, 2) When they remain faithful until the end of their earthly lives, they literally die and are resurrected “to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance” as part of the righteous “new heavens.”—1 Peter 1:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:13.
“Waiting for the Revealing of the Sons of God”
18, 19. (a) What is human “creation” awaiting? (b) How will “the sons of God” be ‘revealed,’ and why is human “creation” living in eager expectation of this?
18 How does all of this affect those—far more numerous than the 144,000 spiritual “sons of God”—who hunger and thirst for righteousness but whose hope is to possess the earth? Of these, the apostle Paul writes: “For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility . . . on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:19-21.
19 Such human “creation” whose hope is to live forever in a paradise earth are living in “eager expectation” of the time—now near—when the King Jesus Christ and the resurrected “sons of God” will be ‘revealed’ in destroying the present wicked system of things and thereafter ruling as kings and priests “for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4, 6) During the Millennial Reign of Christ, human “creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption.”
20. What will be considered in the following article?
20 Just how humans living in the righteous “new earth” will finally attain to “the glorious freedom of the children of God,” and how the Biblical doctrine of justification affects them even now, will be considered in the following article.
a For an in-depth discussion of being “born again,” please see The Watchtower dated February 1, 1982, pages 18-29.
With regard to God’s declaring men righteous—
◻ What does the Bible mean by righteous new heavens and a righteous new earth?
◻ Why does mankind need to be put right with Jehovah?
◻ How were Jehovah’s standards of righteousness satisfied?
◻ Why are the 144,000 the first ones to be declared righteous, and what do they do with the life rights received?
◻ To what do the 144,000 become heirs with Christ?
[Box on page 11]
There are two aspects to justification, or the declaration of righteousness:
(1) God’s accounting that person guiltless
(2) God’s declaring that person perfect and worthy of everlasting life on earth
The 144,000 anointed Christians are declared righteous in both respects. They sacrifice their human life rights and are begotten as spiritual “sons” called to become kings and priests with Christ in the “new heavens”