Declared Righteous as a Friend of God
“‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’”—JAMES 2:23.
1, 2. How are “things in the heavens” and “things upon the earth” being reconciled to God?
“GOD saw good for all fullness to dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile again to himself all other things by making peace through the blood he shed on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.” (Colossians 1:19, 20) This divine purpose of reconciliation is moving to its climax.
2 “The things in the heavens” are not spirit creatures, for angels are not ransomed by Christ’s blood. Rather, they are the humans bought with the Lamb’s blood to be “a kingdom and priests” with Christ in the “new heavens.” These have already been fully declared righteous through the blood of Christ. In addition, for some 50 years now, Jehovah has been making peace with “things upon the earth,” those humans who will become a part of the righteous “new earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10; 2 Peter 3:13) This gathering of “all things together,” both things earthly and things heavenly, “is according to his [Jehovah’s] good pleasure which he purposed in himself.”—Ephesians 1:9, 10.
God’s Purpose for His Son Adam
3, 4. What was Adam’s standing before God, but in what respect did he still need to be declared righteous?
3 Adam was created a perfect, righteous, human son of God. (Luke 3:38) His righteousness was not credited, or imputed. It was inherent. From the standpoint of guiltlessness before Jehovah, Adam had no need to be “declared” righteous. As long as he submitted to God’s legitimate rulership, he maintained a good standing before his Creator.
4 However, he had not yet proved himself to be an integrity keeper and had not yet been judged worthy of the right to everlasting life on earth. For that, he had to show, over a period of time, faithfulness to Jehovah and attachment to righteousness. Had he thus proved his integrity under test, he would have received the right to everlasting life on earth. It would have been as if God had declared, or gone on record as stating, that Adam merited endless life. In symbol of this, Jehovah no doubt would have led him to “the tree of life” and allowed him to eat of its fruit.—Genesis 2:9, 16, 17; 3:22.
5. (a) What did Adam lose for himself and for his offspring? (b) What hope of deliverance from sin and death did Jehovah give to human creation?
5 But Adam failed when tested and thereby lost perfection, righteousness, and sonship for himself and his offspring. (Romans 5:12) Consequently, Adam’s descendants were all born estranged from God, inherently unrighteous. (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 3:10) Thus, human creation “was subjected to futility” but “on the basis of hope,” which hope of deliverance from sin and death was given immediately after the rebellion in Eden.—Romans 8:20, 21; Genesis 3:15.
Declared Righteous Before Christ—How So?
6, 7. (a) To what extent were some humans declared righteous before Christ’s sacrificial death? (b) What are some examples of pre-Christian servants of Jehovah who received a righteous standing?
6 Mankind’s hope for deliverance from sin and death depended on the coming of the promised “seed,” God’s only-begotten Son. (John 3:16) Before Christ’s sacrificial death, there was no way for men to obtain “acquittal and life,” or “a declaring of them righteous for life.” (Romans 5:18, Revised Standard Version; New World Translation) Nevertheless, even before Christ paid the ransom for man’s deliverance, some men and women put faith in God’s promise and backed up that faith by works. Because of this, Jehovah kindly pardoned their sin and accepted them as his servants. He lovingly accounted them relatively guiltless, when compared to the majority of mankind alienated from God. (Psalm 32:1, 2; Ephesians 2:12) He gave them a righteous standing, declaring them righteous to the extent that was appropriate at the time.
7 Thus, by faith Abel “had witness borne to him that he was righteous.” (Hebrews 11:4) Noah “became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) In spite of his failings, Job was said to be “blameless and upright.” (Job 1:1, 22; 7:21) Phinehas showed zeal for pure worship, “and it came to be counted to him as righteousness.” (Psalm 106:30, 31; Numbers 25:1-13) “By faith” and by her works of kindness toward God’s people, the non-Israelite harlot Rahab received a righteous standing, or was declared righteous.—Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25.
How Abraham Was Accounted Righteous
8, 9. (a) Whose righteousness is the main topic of Paul’s letter to the Romans? (b) In what respects does the declaration of righteousness of the “holy ones” go beyond that of Abraham?
8 The case of Abraham deserves particular attention. His being declared righteous is mentioned by two writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures, both of whom were writing to first-century Christians who were called to be a part of the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel.—Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6; James 1:1; Revelation 7:4.
9 In his letter to the Romans, Paul argues that those “called to be holy ones” (Ro 1:7), both Jews and Gentiles (Ro 1:16, 17), are declared righteous “by faith apart from works of law.” (Ro 3:28) To substantiate his argument, he opens a long explanation (Ro 4:1-22) and quotes Genesis 15:6 in saying: “Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Then, in the concluding verses of Ro chapter 4:25, Paul says that Jesus “was delivered up for the sake of our trespasses and was raised up for the sake of declaring us [that is, “the holy ones” (Romans 1:7)] righteous.” “Us” cannot include Abraham, since he died long before Christ’s death and resurrection. Consequently, when, in the following chapters, Paul speaks of those who are to “rule as kings” and of their being declared righteous “for life” with a view to becoming “God’s sons” and “joint heirs with Christ,” he was obviously speaking of something quite different from God’s attributing righteousness to Abraham.—Romans 5:17, 18; 8:14, 17, 28-33.
10. How does James shed light on the scope of Abraham’s being declared righteous?
10 James also mentions Abraham as an example to prove that faith must be backed up by godly works. After stating that Abraham was declared righteous, quoting Genesis 15:6, James adds a comment that helps us to see the scope of Abraham’s justification. He writes: “The scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (James 2:20-23) Yes, due to his faith, Abraham was declared righteous as a friend of Jehovah, not as a son with the right to perfect human life or to kingship with Christ. Interestingly, in his Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert Girdlestone wrote concerning Abraham’s righteousness: “This righteousness was not absolute, i.e. such as would commend Abraham to God as a rightful claimant of the inheritance of sonship.”
Jehovah’s Book of Remembrance
11. Whose names are written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance, and why?
11 The credit of relative righteousness to faithful men and women before Christ was a token of the real, or actual, righteousness and perfection associated with everlasting life that they may gain in God’s new earth. In view of their life prospects, they may be viewed as having their names written in a book of remembrance. (Compare Malachi 3:16; Exodus 32:32, 33.) It contains the names of those who are viewed by Jehovah as “righteous ones” who have demonstrated their faith by righteous works, and who are in line to receive everlasting life on earth.—Psalm 69:28; Habakkuk 2:4.
12. What will the “righteous” who are resurrected have to do to keep their names in Jehovah’s book of remembrance?
12 However, such names are not yet written in Jehovah’s “book of life.” (Revelation 20:15) When such faithful men and women of the past come back on earth in ‘the resurrection of the righteous,’ they will no doubt accept with faith Jehovah’s provision for life through Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Acts 24:15) Thus they will become a part of Jesus’ “other sheep,” together with the “great crowd” who will have survived the “great tribulation.” (John 10:16; Revelation 7:9, 14) So doing, they will keep their names in Jehovah’s book of remembrance.
Accounted Righteous as Friends for Survival
13. Whom is the Fine Shepherd now bringing in, and how do they get inscribed in Jehovah’s book of remembrance?
13 The Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is now bringing in “other sheep” that are not of the “little flock” of 144,000 “holy ones” to whom the heavenly Kingdom is given. (Luke 12:32; Daniel 7:18) These “other sheep” listen to the voice of the Fine Shepherd. (John 10:16) They exercise faith in Jehovah and in his Son. They dedicate their lives to Jehovah on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. They are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit” and recognize the need to cultivate “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Matthew 28:19, 20; Galatians 5:22, 23) Their names are written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance.
14. What gives the “other sheep” a clean standing before Jehovah, but for what do they need to ask God?
14 These “other sheep” gathered in this time of the end will make up the “great crowd” whom the apostle John saw in vision, after he had seen the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel. (Revelation 7:4, 9) He described the “great crowd” as having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Re 7 Verse 14) Because of their faith in the Lamb’s shed blood, a degree of righteousness is credited to them. This was depicted by their symbolic white robes. They have a clean standing before Jehovah, and “that is why” he allows them to ‘render him sacred service day and night in his temple.’ (Re 7 Verse 15) Still, each day they must confess their sins to Jehovah and ask for forgiveness through Jesus Christ.—1 John 1:9–2:2.
15. (a) How does the parable of the sheep and the goats show that the “other sheep” have a righteous standing with God? (b) To what extent are they declared righteous at the present time?
15 That the “other sheep” are God’s friends and even now have a relatively righteous standing before him is also made clear in Jesus’ prophecy on ‘the sign of his presence,’ which includes the illustration of the sheep and the goats. Because the “sheep” do good to the remnant of Christ’s 144,000 “brothers” still on earth, they are blessed by Jesus’ Father and are called “righteous ones.” Like Abraham, they are accounted, or declared, righteous as friends of God. Their righteous standing will also mean survival for them when the “goats” depart into “everlasting cutting-off.” (Matthew 24:3–25:46) They will “come out of the great tribulation” that will mark the end of the present wicked system of things.—Revelation 7:14.
Brought Up to Perfection
16. How do we know that the great crowd are not declared righteous for life before the “great tribulation”?
16 The “great crowd,” who survive the “great tribulation,” are not already declared righteous for life. We can see this from the fact that the chapter that mentions them goes on to say: “The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life.” (Revelation 7:17) So, even though God previously counted them as righteous compared to mankind in general and as his friends, they need additional help, or steps to be taken, so that they can be declared righteous for life.
17. (a) What is meant by “the curing of the nations”? (b) Who will need to have their names inscribed in “the book of life”?
17 During the Millennium, the enthroned Lamb, Christ Jesus, together with his 144,000 associate kings and priests, will apply a program of spiritual and physical “curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1, 2) Such “nations” will be made up of the survivors of the great tribulation, any children born to them after Har–Magedon, and those who come back in the “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) All who put faith in Christ’s blood and accomplish appropriate “deeds” will eventually have their names written in “the book of life.”—Revelation 20:11-15.
18. To what condition will earth’s inhabitants have been raised by the end of the Millennium?
18 By the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign, those of earth’s inhabitants who have shown that they accept Christ’s ransom and will live by Jehovah’s standards will have been raised to perfection. (Revelation 20:5) They will be as Adam was before he sinned. Like him, they will be tested as to their obedience.
“Glorious Freedom” as “Children of God”
19. (a) What will occur immediately after the Millennium? (b) What will happen to those whose names are not found written in “the book of life”?
19 Immediately after the Millennium, Christ will hand over to his Father a perfect human race. (1 Corinthians 15:28) “Satan will be let loose” for a decisive test of mankind. (Revelation 20:7, 8) The names of any who fail under test will not be “found written in the book of life.” They will symbolically be “hurled into the lake of fire,” which “means the second death.”—Revelation 20:15; 21:8.
20. (a) Whom will Jehovah declare righteous for life, and why? (b) How will Jehovah’s merciful arrangement of justification have served its purpose?
20 Those who prove loyal to Jehovah will have their names indelibly written in the “book of life,” as being perfect in integrity and worthy of the right to everlasting life on earth. Jehovah himself will then declare them righteous in the complete sense. (Romans 8:33) They will have been justified to life eternal. God will adopt them as his earthly sons, and they will enter into the promised “glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20, 21) Peace and harmony will have been restored to the universe. Reconciliation with God will be complete for “things upon the earth” and “things in the heavens.” (Colossians 1:20) Jehovah’s merciful arrangement of justification will have served its purpose. To the question, “Are you right with God?” every creature in heaven and on earth will be able to answer yes and add: “To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.”—Revelation 5:13.
Concerning the standing of the “other sheep” before God—
□ Why was Adam not declared righteous?
□ To what extent were Abraham and other men and women before Christ declared righteous?
□ Whose names were written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance?
□ To what extent do the “other sheep” have a righteous standing at the present time, and when will they be brought to perfection?
[Blurb on page 18]
By faith in “the blood of the Lamb,” the “other sheep” are given an approved standing before Jehovah and are thus declared righteous for friendship with him and for survival during the “great tribulation.” They will attain to perfection by the end of the Millennium. After the final test they will be declared righteous for life.
[Pictures on page 16]
The names of righteous ones are written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance
Modern-day “great crowd”