Unitedly Pursuing the Goal of Life
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—JOHN 17:3.
1. (a) On what occasion did Jesus first speak of “everlasting life”? (b) Who may reach this goal?
STEALTHILY he comes, unobserved, through the shadows of the night. It is Nicodemus. He has been impressed by the signs that Jesus performed in Jerusalem at Passover time of 30 C.E. To this Pharisee, the Son of God makes his first recorded mention of “everlasting life,” adding these heartwarming words: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:15, 16) What a grand opportunity is now opening up for the world of redeemable mankind! Why, even a proud Pharisee may humble himself so as to reach the goal.
2. (a) Under what circumstances did Jesus again speak of “everlasting life”? (b) To whom are life-giving waters made available?
2 Shortly thereafter, Jesus is traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee. He pauses at a well in Samaria while his disciples go off to buy food. A woman comes to draw water. Jesus says to her: “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:14) Since the Samaritans are despised by the Jews, why does Jesus hold out such a precious hope to this woman? Further, as Jesus knows, this woman has had five husbands and is now living immorally with a man who is not her husband. Yet, as Jesus here states, life-giving waters of truth are to be made available even to despised ones of the world of mankind if only these will repent and clean up their lives.—Compare Colossians 3:5-7.
3. (a) What kind of “food” does Jesus recommend? (b) How has John 4:34-36 been fulfilled?
3 “Everlasting life”! Jesus further develops this theme when his disciples return and urge him to eat. He tells them: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” What is that work? Jesus says: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life.” Such a harvest was in prospect, even among the lowly Samaritans, and it became a joyful reality, as the record shows. (John 4:34-36; Acts 8:1, 14-17) Harvesting for everlasting life continues to this day, but now the field is the world. Disciples of Jesus Christ still have plenty to do in this work of the Lord.—Matthew 13:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
“The Gift of Life”
4. How does Jesus answer the Jews as to Sabbath keeping?
4 A year passes. Now it is Passover time of 31 C.E. As is his custom, Jesus is present in Jerusalem for the feast. But the Jews go to persecuting him because he performs loving acts of healing on the Sabbath. How does Jesus answer them? He says: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” So they seek to kill him.—John 5:17, 18.
5, 6. (a) What precious union does Jesus now describe? (b) In what respect does Jesus have “life in himself”?
5 Jesus goes on, however, to describe a most precious union—the unity, or oneness, that exists between him and the Father. He tells those Jews: “For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these, in order that you may marvel.” He indicates that the Father has committed to him extraordinary power, saying: “He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.”—John 5:20, 24.
6 Yes, even those “dead” in God’s sight because of their inherited sinfulness may “hear the voice of the Son of God” and come to life. But how? Jesus explains: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.” Those words, “life in himself,” may also be rendered, “in himself the gift of life.” (John 5:25, 26, Ref. Bi., footnote) So Jesus is able to give humans a fine standing before God. Furthermore, he is able to resurrect and impart life to those asleep in death.—John 11:25; Revelation 1:18.
7 Jehovah has always had life in himself. It is written of him: “With you is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:5, 9) But now the Father has raised up his integrity-keeping Son from the dead as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” Having “in himself the gift of life,” Jesus has been empowered to forgive sins, to judge, and to raise the dead, with everlasting life in view.—1 Corinthians 15:20-22; John 5:27-29; Acts 17:31.
A Joyful Union
8, 9. (a) How may we keep the goal of everlasting life in view? (b) What does God arrange as to everlasting life? (c) Who come to share in these blessings, and how?
8 Thus, Jesus’ disciple Jude admonishes us: “Keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 21) What a precious goal—everlasting life! And this is to be life in perfection, according to the will of our perfect Creator and the arrangement that he makes through his Son. It will be free of the drudgery that so often marks the struggle for survival in the present system of things. In the coming system of things, sorrow, sickness, lawlessness, corruption, even death, will be no more!—Micah 4:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 15:26.
9 Who are to share in the realization of these promises, and where? It is those who come to exercise faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and who add godly works to that faith. These become harmoniously joined together with fellow Christians worldwide in the unity of the faith.—James 2:24; Ephesians 4:16.
10. (a) In God’s “administration,” what is first in order? (b) To what does the “administration” next proceed?
10 According to his good pleasure, God has purposed “an administration . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:8-10) This is God’s household arrangement that begins with the gathering of Christ’s 144,000 joint heirs. These are “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb [Jesus Christ].” They have part in “the first [the heavenly] resurrection” so that they may serve with Christ as kings and priests for a thousand years. Next, God’s administration proceeds to gather “the things on the earth,” starting with an innumerable “great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” These servants of God will come out of “the great tribulation” with the prospect of gaining everlasting life in “a new earth.”—Revelation 14:1, 4; 20:4, 6; 7:4, 9-17; 21:1, 4.
11 The spirit-anointed sons of God, who are “the things in the heavens,” enjoy a very intimate relationship with Jesus and with the Father. They are “assigned as heirs” of the Kingdom in union with Jesus. (Ephesians 1:11) Jesus encouraged them to remain in union with him, just as branches remain attached to a vine, in order to bear much fruit. Unless this precious union with Christ Jesus is maintained, the branches “can do nothing at all.”—John 14:10, 11, 20; 15:4, 5; 1 John 2:27.
“Other Sheep” Now Share
12. (a) What is the relationship of the “other sheep” to the “little flock”? (b) What application does 1 John 2:1-6 have with regard to each of these groups?
12 However, what of the millions of other sheeplike people who have been separated from worldly “goats” over the past 50 years? (Matthew 25:31-40) These are not of Jesus’ “little flock” who are given the Kingdom, but as “other sheep,” they join these as part of a larger flock that serves at unity with the Father and the Son. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) The apostle John gives the assurance that Jesus Christ “is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [that is, those of the “little flock”], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” Thus these “other sheep,” gathered from the world of mankind, may also enjoy a precious union, or concord, with God and Christ. It is similar to what John goes on to say: “Whoever does observe his word, truthfully in this person the love of God has been made perfect. By this we have the knowledge that we are in union with him.” First the “little flock” and then the “other sheep” come under obligation to walk just as Jesus walked.—1 John 2:1-6.
13. (a) At John 17:20, 21, for what does Jesus pray? (b) What shows that this petition is not limited to Christ’s joint heirs?
13 So today, both groups, the heavenly and the earthly, are ‘in union with the Father and with the Son’—at full accord with them in accomplishing God’s work. Jesus prayed, “That they may all be [at unity], just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us.” This oneness is not limited in meaning to joint heirship, for obviously Jesus’ disciples do not become part of any ‘body of Jehovah’ or ‘joint heirs with Jehovah.’ They are “in union” in that they show oneness in cooperation, being of one heart and mind with both Jehovah and Christ, as they witness to the world of mankind.—John 17:20, 21.
14. In what special way is the heavenly class in union with Christ, and what makes them aware of this?
14 However, the ones of the anointed heavenly class enjoy that union now in a special way, as they have been declared righteous as to life, through the application of the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. Hence, they can be spirit begotten with the prospect of becoming joint heirs with Christ Jesus. They acknowledge their adoption as sons, saying: “The spirit itself [God’s begetting active force] bears witness with our spirit [dominant mental inclination] that we are God’s children.”—Romans 3:23, 24; 5:1; 8:15-18.
15. What do the present and the future hold for those with earthly life prospects?
15 Concerning those with earthly life prospects, they are now declared righteous as to friendship with God, just as were Abraham, Rahab, and others of ancient times. During Christ’s Millennial Reign, they will gradually be raised to human perfection, so that after a final testing “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; James 2:21-26) Thus, obedient humans will be declared righteous for everlasting life on earth.—Compare John 10:10; Isaiah 9:7; 11:1-9; 35:1-6; 65:17-25.
16. (a) In what respects do the “little flock” and the “other sheep” show “union” with one another? (b) But why does John 3:3-5 apply only to the “little flock”?
16 As individuals, those of the “little flock” and the multitudinous crowd of the “other sheep” show comparable joyful zeal for God’s service. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16; Titus 2:13, 14) Most of the remaining anointed ones may be far more advanced in age and in Christian experience, but both groups display the Christian personality and the fruitage of the spirit. (Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 5:22, 23) There is a difference, though, as Jesus indicated to Nicodemus even before he spoke of everlasting life. He said: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5) So a spiritual rebirth is experienced by those baptized Christians whom God calls to be joint heirs with Jesus in his Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 1:9, 26-30) The “other sheep” do not need any such rebirth, for their goal is life everlasting in the restored earthly Paradise as subjects of the Kingdom.—Matthew 25:34, 46b; Luke 23:42, 43.
Memorial—And the New Covenant
17. (a) Why should all who have the goal of life meet with God’s people on March 24? (b) What do we note about the 1985 Memorial celebration?
17 March 24 after sundown is the time for Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to observe the 1986 Memorial of Jesus’ death. Attention will be focused on Jesus’ sacrificing his perfect human body and lifeblood in vindication of his Father’s name and purpose and in behalf of sinful mankind. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) Hence, all who have the goal of life (whether in heaven or on earth) will want to assemble with God’s people worldwide for this joyous occasion. In 1985 a grand total of 7,792,109 persons so memorialized Jesus’ death. However, those partaking of the Memorial bread and wine, symbolizing Jesus’ human body and blood, numbered only 9,051. Why so few?
18, 19. (a) What covenants does Jesus refer to at Luke chapter 22? (b) What purpose does each covenant serve? (c) As foreshadowed by Moses, how does Jesus serve as the “one mediator”?
18 Well, what did Jesus say on that evening of instituting the Memorial of his death? After passing the loaf to his disciples, he next offered the wine in the same way, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” Later, he went on to amplify the reason for taking them into the new covenant, saying: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:19, 20, 28-30.
19 The prophet Jeremiah had foretold the new covenant, stating that through it Jehovah would be forgiving the error and sin of his people so that they might “know Jehovah” in a most intimate relationship. (Jeremiah 31:31, 34) Just as Moses was “mediator” of the Law covenant with fleshly Israel, so Jesus becomes “mediator of [this] correspondingly better covenant” that God makes with the spiritual “Israel of God.” This is in order to ransom those who are called to become Kingdom heirs with Christ. Thus they “receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance.” (Galatians 3:19, 20; 6:16; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) It is particularly in this Biblical sense that Christ Jesus serves as the “one mediator between God and men.”—1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
20. (a) Who properly partake of the Memorial emblems? (b) Why is this so?
20 Who, then, may properly partake of the Memorial emblems of the bread and the wine? It is only the group that God takes into the new covenant made over Jesus’ sacrifice. (Psalm 50:5) The purpose of this covenant is to justify Jesus’ 144,000 joint heirs to human life first, so that they may sacrifice this life-right and be taken into the heavenly Kingdom. (Romans 4:25; 2 Timothy 2:10, 12) But what of the “other sheep”?
21. (a) How are the “other sheep” benefited as observers at the Memorial? (b) On what does the Memorial celebration focus, and what question arises?
21 Those of the “other sheep” class are not in the new covenant and so do not partake. However, all of them are richly benefited by attending the Memorial celebration as respectful observers. Their appreciation of spiritual matters is sharpened in line with the words of Jesus’ prayer to his Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Remember, the Memorial celebration focuses attention on Jesus’ flesh and blood. The sacrificed flesh and blood of Christ are vitally important to all who are pursuing the goal of everlasting life. How is this true with regard to the “other sheep,” who have not been taken into the new covenant and so do not partake of the Memorial emblems? Let us consider this in the following article.
How Would You Answer?
□ How, progressively, did Jesus impart understanding about the prospect of everlasting life?
□ How has God proceeded with his “administration”?
□ Why may it be said that the “other sheep” are “in union” with the Father, the Son, and Christ’s brothers?
□ Why is it that only anointed Christians partake of the Memorial emblems?
[Picture on page 13]
The “little flock” and the “other sheep” are “in union”—doing God’s work as Jesus did it