Theocratic Administration in the Christian Era
“It is according to his good pleasure . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”—EPHESIANS 1:9, 10.
1, 2. (a) How did the gathering of “the things in the heavens” proceed, starting in 33 C.E.? (b) How have anointed Christians demonstrated the spirit of Moses and Elijah since 1914?
THIS gathering of “the things in the heavens” began in 33 C.E., when “the Israel of God” was born. (Galatians 6:16; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Peter 2:9, 10) After the first century C.E., the gathering slowed down as genuine Christians (called “wheat” by Jesus) were overgrown by apostate “weeds” sown by Satan. But as “the time of the end” approached, the true Israel of God came back into human view and in 1919 was appointed over all Jesus’ belongings.a—Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; 24:45-47; Daniel 12:4.
2 During the first world war, anointed Christians performed powerful works, just as Moses and Elijah had done.b (Revelation 11:5, 6) Since 1919 they have preached the good news in a hostile world, doing so with the courage of Elijah. (Matthew 24:9-14) And since 1922 they have proclaimed Jehovah’s judgments on mankind, just as Moses brought God’s plagues upon ancient Egypt. (Revelation 15:1; 16:2-17) The remnant of these anointed Christians are today the nucleus of the new world society of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A Governing Body in Action
3. What events show that the early Christian congregation was well organized?
3 From the beginning, Jesus’ anointed followers were organized. As the number of disciples multiplied, local congregations were established and elders were appointed. (Titus 1:5) After 33 C.E., the 12 apostles acted as an authoritative central governing body. As such, they took a fearless lead in the witness work. (Acts 4:33, 35, 37; 5:18, 29) They organized the distribution of food to needy ones, and they sent Peter and John to Samaria to follow up on reports of interest there. (Acts 6:1-6; 8:6-8, 14-17) Barnabas took Paul to them to have it confirmed that this former persecutor was now a follower of Jesus. (Acts 9:27; Galatians 1:18, 19) And after Peter had preached to Cornelius and his household, he returned to Jerusalem and explained to the apostles and other Judean brothers how holy spirit had indicated God’s will in this case.—Acts 11:1-18.
4. What attempt was made to kill Peter, but how was his life saved?
4 Then the governing body came under brutal attack. Peter was imprisoned, and his life was saved only by angelic intervention. (Acts 12:3-11) Now for the first time, someone other than one of the 12 apostles appeared in a prominent position in Jerusalem. When Peter was released from prison, he told a group gathered in the house of the mother of John Mark: “Report these things to James [Jesus’ half brother] and the brothers.”—Acts 12:17.
5. How was the makeup of the governing body changed after the martyrdom of James?
5 Previously, after Judas Iscariot, the traitorous apostle, committed suicide, a need was discerned to give “his office of oversight” as an apostle to someone who had been with Jesus during his ministry and who had witnessed his death and resurrection. However, when James, the brother of John, was executed, no one replaced him as one of the 12. (Acts 1:20-26; 12:1, 2) Rather, the next Scriptural reference to the governing body shows that it had been enlarged. When a dispute arose over whether Gentiles who followed Jesus should submit to the Mosaic Law, the matter was submitted for decision to “the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem.” (Acts 15:2, 6, 20, 22, 23; 16:4) Why were “older men” now evidently on the governing body? The Bible does not say, but there was an obvious benefit. The death of James and the imprisonment of Peter had shown that the apostles might one day be imprisoned or killed. In such a contingency, the presence of other qualified elders, experienced in governing body procedures, would ensure the orderly continuance of oversight.
6. How did the governing body continue to function in Jerusalem, even when its original members were no longer in that city?
6 When Paul came to Jerusalem about the year 56 C.E., he reported to James and, the Bible says, “all the older men were present.” (Acts 21:18) Why was there no mention of apostles at this meeting? Again, the Bible does not say. But the historian Eusebius later reported that some time before 66 C.E., “the remaining apostles, in constant danger from murderous plots, were driven out of Judea. But to teach their message they travelled into every land in the power of Christ.” (Eusebius, Book III, V, v. 2) True, Eusebius’ words are not part of the inspired record, but they do harmonize with what that record says. For example, by 62 C.E., Peter was in Babylon—far from Jerusalem. (1 Peter 5:13) Still, in 56 C.E., and likely right up until 66 C.E., a governing body was clearly active in Jerusalem.
Administration in Modern Times
7. Compared with the governing body of the first century, what outstanding difference is there in the makeup of the Governing Body today?
7 From 33 C.E. until the tribulation on Jerusalem, the governing body evidently consisted of Jewish Christians. During his visit in 56 C.E., Paul learned that many Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, despite “holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,” were still “zealous for the [Mosaic] Law.”c (James 2:1; Acts 21:20-25) Such Jews may have had difficulty imagining a Gentile on the governing body. In modern times, though, there has been another change in the makeup of this body. Today, it consists entirely of anointed Gentile Christians, and Jehovah has greatly blessed their oversight.—Ephesians 2:11-15.
8, 9. What developments have occurred in the Governing Body in modern times?
8 From the incorporation of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in 1884 until 1972, the president of the Society exercised great authority in Jehovah’s organization, while the Governing Body was closely associated with the Society’s board of directors. The blessings enjoyed during those years prove that Jehovah accepted that arrangement. Between 1972 and 1975, the Governing Body was enlarged to 18 members. Things moved closer to the first-century arrangement when greater authority was invested in this enlarged body, some of whom are directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
9 Since 1975 a number of these 18 individuals have finished their earthly course. They have conquered the world and have ‘sat down with Jesus on his heavenly throne.’ (Revelation 3:21) For this and other reasons, the Governing Body now has ten members, including one who was added in 1994. Most are quite advanced in age. However, these anointed brothers are given fine support as they fulfill their weighty duties. Where is that support found? A glance at modern developments among God’s people answers that question.
Support for the Israel of God
10. Who have joined the anointed in Jehovah’s service in these last days, and how was this prophesied?
10 Back in 1884 almost all of those associated with the Israel of God were anointed Christians. Gradually, however, another group began to appear, and in 1935 this group was identified as the “great crowd” of Revelation chapter 7. Having an earthly hope, these represent “the things on the earth” that Jehovah purposes to gather together in the Christ. (Ephesians 1:10) They represent the “other sheep” of Jesus’ parable of the sheepfolds. (John 10:16) Since 1935, other sheep have flocked into Jehovah’s organization. They have “come flying just like a cloud, and like doves to their birdhouse holes.” (Isaiah 60:8) Because of the increase in the great crowd and the decrease in the anointed class as many finish their earthly course in death, qualified other sheep have come to play an increasing role in Christian activities. In what ways?
11. What privileges, originally limited to anointed Christians, have been given to other sheep?
11 Declaring abroad Jehovah’s excellencies has always been a special obligation of God’s “holy nation.” Paul spoke of it as a temple sacrifice, and to those who would be “a royal priesthood,” Jesus gave the commission to preach and teach. (Exodus 19:5, 6; 1 Peter 2:4, 9; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Hebrews 13:15, 16) Nevertheless, the August 1, 1932, issue of The Watchtower specifically encouraged those prefigured by Jonadab to share in this activity. Indeed, many of such other sheep were already doing so. Today, almost all the preaching work is done by the other sheep as a prominent part of their “rendering [God] sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Revelation 7:15) Similarly, in the early part of the modern history of Jehovah’s people, congregation elders were anointed Christians, “stars” in the right hand of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:16, 20) But the May 1, 1937, issue of The Watchtower announced that qualified other sheep could be company servants (presiding overseers). Even if anointed men were available, other sheep could be used if the anointed men were not able to shoulder this responsibility. Today, almost all congregation elders are of the other sheep.
12. What Scriptural precedents are there for qualified other sheep receiving weighty organizational responsibilities?
12 Is it wrong to give such weighty responsibilities to the other sheep? No, it follows historical precedent. Some foreign proselytes (alien residents) held high posts in ancient Israel. (2 Samuel 23:37, 39; Jeremiah 38:7-9) After the Babylonian exile, qualified Nethinim (non-Israelite temple servants) were given privileges of temple service that previously belonged only to Levites. (Ezra 8:15-20; Nehemiah 7:60) In addition, Moses, who was seen in the transfiguration vision with Jesus, accepted the fine counsel offered by the Midianite Jethro. Later, he asked Jethro’s son Hobab to guide them through the wilderness.—Exodus 18:5, 17-24; Numbers 10:29.
13. In humbly delegating responsibility to qualified other sheep, whose fine spirit have the anointed been imitating?
13 Toward the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, Moses, knowing that he would not go into the Promised Land, prayed that Jehovah would provide a successor. (Numbers 27:15-17) Jehovah told him to commission Joshua before all the people, and Moses did so, even though he was still physically strong and did not immediately cease to serve Israel. (Deuteronomy 3:28; 34:5-7, 9) With a similar humble spirit, the anointed have already been extending increased privileges to qualified men from among the other sheep.
14. What prophecies point to the growing organizational role of the other sheep?
14 The growing organizational role of the other sheep is also the subject of prophecy. Zechariah foretold that the non-Israelite Philistine would be “like a sheik in Judah.” (Zechariah 9:6, 7) Sheikhs were tribal chiefs, so Zechariah was saying that a former enemy of Israel would adopt true worship and come to be like a tribal chief in the Promised Land. Further, when addressing the Israel of God, Jehovah said: “Strangers will actually stand and shepherd the flocks of you people, and the foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. And as for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be.” (Isaiah 61:5, 6) The “strangers” and “foreigners” are the other sheep. These have been delegated responsibilities so as to shoulder more and more work as the aging anointed remnant finish their earthly course and go to serve in a complete sense as heavenly “priests of Jehovah,” surrounding Jehovah’s throne of majesty as “ministers of our God.”—1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Revelation 4:4, 9-11; 5:9, 10.
“The Generation . . . to Come”
15. In this time of the end, which group of Christians have reached “old age,” and which group represent “the generation . . . to come”?
15 The anointed remnant has been eager to train other sheep for increased responsibilities. Psalm 71:18 says: “Even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.” Commenting on this verse, the December 15, 1948, Watchtower pointed out that the congregation of anointed Christians had certainly reached old age. It went on to say that the anointed happily “look forward in the light of Bible prophecy and see a new generation.” To whom particularly is this referring? The Watchtower said: “Jesus spoke of them as his ‘other sheep.’” ‘The generation to come’ refers to humans who will live under the new earthly administration governed by the Kingdom of the heavens.
16. To what blessings do those of ‘the generation to come’ eagerly look forward?
16 The Bible does not clearly say when all anointed Christians will leave their brothers of this ‘generation to come’ and go on to be glorified along with Jesus Christ. But these anointed ones are confident that the time for this is approaching. The events foretold in Jesus’ great prophecy about “the time of the end” have been coming to pass since 1914, showing that the destruction of this world is near. (Daniel 12:4; Matthew 24:3-14; Mark 13:4-20; Luke 21:7-24) Soon, Jehovah will usher in a new world in which ‘the generation to come’ will ‘inherit the kingdom [the earthly realm] prepared for them from the founding of the world.’ (Matthew 25:34) They are thrilled to anticipate the restoration of Paradise and the raising of millions of dead ones from Hades. (Revelation 20:13) Will anointed ones be there to welcome back these resurrected ones? Back in 1925, the May 1 Watch Tower said: “We should not arbitrarily say what God will or will not do. . . . [But] we are led to the conclusion that the members of the Church [anointed Christians] will be glorified before the resurrection of the ancient worthies [faithful pre-Christian witnesses].” Similarly discussing whether some of the anointed would be on hand to welcome back the resurrected ones, the September 1, 1989, Watchtower said: “This would not be necessary.”d
17. What wonderful privileges will the anointed, as a group, share with the enthroned King, Jesus Christ?
17 True, we do not know what will happen in the case of each anointed Christian. But the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus in the transfiguration vision indicates that resurrected anointed Christians are expected to be with Jesus when he comes in glory to “recompense each one according to his behavior” as his judgment is rendered and executed. Further, we remember Jesus’ promise that anointed Christians who ‘conquer’ will share with him in ‘shepherding the nations with an iron rod’ at Armageddon. When Jesus comes in glory, they will sit with him “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” With Jesus, they will ‘crush Satan under their feet.’—Matthew 16:27–17:9; 19:28; Revelation 2:26, 27; 16:14, 16; Romans 16:20; Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10.
18. (a) What is the situation as regards ‘the gathering of the things in the heavens together in the Christ’? (b) What can we say about ‘the gathering of the things on the earth together in the Christ’?
18 In keeping with his administration of things, Jehovah is progressively moving “to gather all things together again in the Christ.” As far as “the things in the heavens” are concerned, his purpose approaches completion. The uniting of Jesus with all the 144,000 in heaven for “the marriage of the Lamb” is near. Hence, more and more longtime, mature brothers of the other sheep, representing “the things on the earth,” have had delegated to them weightier responsibilities in support of their anointed brothers. What exciting times we live in! How thrilling to see Jehovah’s purpose moving on to its fulfillment! (Ephesians 1:9, 10; 3:10-12; Revelation 14:1; 19:7, 9) And how the other sheep rejoice to support their anointed brothers as both groups serve together as “one flock” under “one shepherd” in subjection to the King, Jesus Christ, and to the glory of the great Universal Sovereign, Jehovah God!—John 10:16; Philippians 2:9-11.
b For example, starting in 1914, “The Photo-Drama of Creation”—a four-part visual and recorded presentation—was shown to audiences in packed theaters throughout the Western world.
c For possible reasons why some Jewish Christians were zealous for the Law, see Insight on the Scriptures, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Volume 2, pages 1163-4.
Can You Explain?
◻ How did God’s organization move forward in the first century?
◻ How has the Governing Body developed in the modern history of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
◻ What Scriptures authorize the giving of authority to the other sheep in Jehovah’s organization?
◻ How have “the things in the heavens” and “the things on the earth” been gathered together in the Christ?
[Picture on page 16]
Even when its original members were no longer in Jerusalem, a governing body continued to operate there
[Pictures on page 18]
Mature anointed Christians have been a blessing to Jehovah’s people
C. T. Russell 1884-1916
J. F. Rutherford 1917-42
N. H. Knorr 1942-77
F. W. Franz 1977-92
M. G. Henschel 1992-