Counted Worthy to Receive a Kingdom
“This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being counted worthy of the kingdom of God.”—2 THESS. 1:5.
1, 2. What is God’s purpose as to judging, and who will do the judging?
ABOUT the year 50 of our Common Era, the apostle Paul was in Athens. Irritated by the rampant idolatry that he saw there, he was moved to give a masterly witness. He climaxed his words with a declaration that must have caught the attention of his pagan listeners. He said: “Now [God] is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—Acts 17:30, 31.
2 How sobering it is to reflect on the fact that God has set a future judgment day for mankind! That judgment will be by the one whom Paul did not name in his talk in Athens but whom we know to be the resurrected Jesus Christ. Judgment by Jesus will mean either life or death.
3. Why did Jehovah make a covenant with Abraham, and who play a special role in its fulfillment?
3 That Judgment Day will be 1,000 years long. Jesus will preside over it in Jehovah’s name as King of God’s Kingdom, but he will not be alone. Jehovah chooses others from among mankind to reign with Jesus and judge during that millennium-long day. (Compare Luke 22:29, 30.) Almost 4,000 years ago, Jehovah laid the groundwork for that Judgment Day when he made a covenant with his faithful servant Abraham. (Read Genesis 22:17, 18.) That covenant evidently went into effect in 1943 B.C.E. Of course, Abraham was unable to grasp fully what the covenant would mean for mankind. We today, though, can see that under its terms, Abraham’s seed play a special role in the fulfillment of God’s purpose to judge mankind.
4, 5. (a) Who is the primary part of the seed of Abraham, and what did he say about the Kingdom? (b) When was the hope to be part of the Kingdom arrangement opened up?
4 The primary part of the seed of Abraham turned out to be Jesus, who in 29 C.E. was anointed with holy spirit and became the promised Messiah, or Christ. (Gal. 3:16) Jesus would spend the next three and a half years preaching the good news of the Kingdom to the Jewish nation. After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus showed that others could hope to share in that Kingdom when he said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.”—Matt. 11:12.
5 Interestingly, immediately before speaking of those who would ‘seize’ the Kingdom of the heavens, Jesus said: “Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matt. 11:11) Why was that? Because the hope of being part of the Kingdom arrangement was not fully opened up to faithful ones until holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost 33 C.E. By that time, John the Baptist had died.—Acts 2:1-4.
Abraham’s Seed Declared Righteous
6, 7. (a) In what way was Abraham’s seed to become “like the stars of the heavens”? (b) What blessing did Abraham receive, and what similar blessing does his seed receive?
6 Abraham was told that his seed would multiply and become “like the stars of the heavens” and the grains of sand on the seashore. (Gen. 13:16; 22:17) In other words, in Abraham’s time it was impossible for humans to know how many would make up this seed. However, the exact number of his spiritual seed was eventually revealed. In addition to Jesus, it was to number 144,000.—Rev. 7:4; 14:1.
7 Regarding Abraham’s faith, God’s Word states: “[Abraham] put faith in Jehovah; and he proceeded to count it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:5, 6) True, no human is absolutely righteous. (Jas. 3:2) Nevertheless, because of Abraham’s outstanding faith, Jehovah dealt with him as if he were righteous and even called him his friend. (Isa. 41:8) Those who make up the spiritual seed of Abraham along with Jesus have also been declared righteous, and this brings them even greater blessings than Abraham received.
8. What blessings are opened up to members of Abraham’s seed?
8 Anointed Christians are declared righteous because they exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Rom. 3:24, 28) In Jehovah’s eyes, they are acquitted of sin and can be anointed with holy spirit to be spiritual sons of God, brothers of Jesus Christ. (John 1:12, 13) They come into the new covenant and form a new nation, “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:16; Luke 22:20) What a magnificent privilege all of that represents! As a result of these actions by God in their behalf, anointed Christians do not hope to live eternally on earth. They sacrifice that prospect for the unspeakable joy of being associated with Jesus during Judgment Day and ruling with him in the heavens.—Read Romans 8:17.
9, 10. (a) When were Christians first anointed with holy spirit, and what lay ahead of them? (b) What help did anointed Christians receive?
9 At Pentecost 33 C.E., a group of faithful humans were given the opportunity to be among those who would rule with Jesus during Judgment Day. About 120 of Jesus’ disciples were baptized with holy spirit and thus became the first anointed Christians. However, for them, that was only a beginning. From then on, they had to demonstrate their loyalty to Jehovah despite all the tests that Satan would bring upon them. They had to be faithful until death if they were to receive the crown of heavenly life.—Rev. 2:10.
10 To this end, Jehovah through his Word and by means of the Christian congregation provided anointed Christians with the exhortation and encouragement that they needed. For example, the apostle Paul wrote to anointed Christians in Thessalonica: “As a father does his children, we kept exhorting each one of you, and consoling and bearing witness to you, to the end that you should go on walking worthily of God who is calling you to his kingdom and glory.”—1 Thess. 2:11, 12.
11. What written provision did Jehovah make for members of “the Israel of God”?
11 In the decades after the first members of the congregation of anointed Christians were chosen, Jehovah saw fit to have a permanent record made of the earthly ministry of Jesus as well as His dealings with and counsel to first-century anointed Christians. Jehovah thus added the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures to the already existing inspired Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Scriptures were written in the first place for the fleshly nation of Israel during the time that they had a special relationship with God. The Christian Greek Scriptures were written primarily for “the Israel of God,” those anointed as brothers of Christ and spiritual sons of God. Of course, that in no way suggests that non-Israelites could not derive great benefit from studying the Hebrew Scriptures. Similarly, Christians who are not anointed with holy spirit derive immeasurable benefits from studying and living according to the counsel found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.—Read 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
12. What reminder did Paul give to anointed Christians?
12 First-century Christians were declared righteous and anointed with holy spirit for the purpose of enabling them to receive their heavenly inheritance. Their anointing did not elevate them to kingship over fellow anointed Christians while still on earth. Evidently, some early Christians lost sight of that fact and began seeking undue prominence among their brothers in the congregation. As a result, Paul was moved to ask: “You men already have your fill, do you? You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you? And I wish indeed that you had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with you as kings.” (1 Cor. 4:8) Therefore, Paul reminded anointed ones of his day: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy.”—2 Cor. 1:24.
Completing the Foretold Number
13. How did the calling of the anointed progress after 33 C.E.?
13 Not all 144,000 anointed Christians were selected in the first century. Their calling continued throughout the apostolic period and then apparently slowed down. However, it did continue throughout the succeeding centuries into modern times. (Matt. 28:20) Eventually, after Jesus began to reign in 1914, things moved ahead rapidly.
14, 15. What has occurred in our time with regard to the calling of the anointed?
14 First, Jesus cleansed the heavens of all vestiges of opposition to godly rule. (Read Revelation 12:10, 12.) Then he turned his attention to the gathering of the remaining prospective members of his Kingdom government so as to complete the number of 144,000. By the mid-1930’s, that task was evidently well along and many of those responding to the preaching work did not have the desire to go to heaven. The spirit was not bearing witness with them that they were sons of God. (Compare Romans 8:16.) Rather, they identified themselves with the “other sheep,” who have the hope of living forever on a paradise earth. (John 10:16) Hence, after 1935 the thrust of the preaching work turned to the gathering of “a great crowd,” those whom the apostle John saw in vision and who would survive “the great tribulation.”—Rev. 7:9, 10, 14.
15 Even so, over the years since the 1930’s, a few individuals have been called to a heavenly hope. Why? In some cases, it could be that they replaced individuals previously called who had become unfaithful. (Compare Revelation 3:16.) Paul even spoke of personal acquaintances who had left the truth. (Phil. 3:17-19) Whom would Jehovah call to serve as such replacements? Of course, that is his decision to make. Still, it would seem reasonable that he would call, not newly converted ones, but individuals who—like the disciples to whom Jesus spoke when he initiated the Memorial observance—have already proved their loyalty to an extent.*—Luke 22:28.
16. Regarding the anointed, for what are we grateful, and what can we confidently believe?
16 It seems, however, that not all who have been called to a heavenly hope since the 1930’s are replacements for ones who have fallen away. Jehovah has evidently made sure that we will have anointed Christians among us all through the final days of this system of things until the destruction of “Babylon the Great.”* (Rev. 17:5) And we can be confident that the full number of 144,000 members will be completed in Jehovah’s due time and that all will eventually take their place in the Kingdom government. We can also believe the prophetic Word that the ever-growing great crowd will as a group continue to prove itself faithful. Soon it will “come out of the great tribulation” brought upon Satan’s world and will joyfully move on into God’s new world.
God’s Heavenly Government Is Almost Complete!
17 Since 33 C.E., tens of thousands of anointed Christians have manifested strong faith and have endured faithfully until death. These have already been counted worthy of receiving the Kingdom and—evidently starting in the early days of Christ’s presence—have been rewarded accordingly.—Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 6:9-11.
18. (a) Those of the anointed who still remain have what confidence? (b) How do those of the other sheep view their anointed Christian brothers?
18 Those of the anointed who still remain on earth are absolutely confident that if they remain faithful, they will soon receive the reward for their faithful course. Millions of other sheep, when contemplating the faith of their anointed brothers, agree with the words of the apostle Paul, who said of anointed brothers in Thessalonica: “We ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the tribulations that you are bearing. This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.” (2 Thess. 1:3-5) With the passing of the last member of the anointed from the earth, whenever that will happen, God’s heavenly government will be complete. What a cause for joy that will be—both in heaven and on earth!
See “Questions From Readers” in the May 1, 2007, issue of The Watchtower.
Can You Explain?
• What did God reveal to Abraham that had a bearing on Judgment Day?
• Why was Abraham declared righteous?
• What does being declared righteous lead to for those of Abraham’s seed?
• What confidence do all Christians have?
[Picture on page 20]
Jesus encouraged his followers to reach out for the Kingdom
[Picture on page 21]
At Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah began selecting the secondary members of Abraham’s seed
[Pictures on page 23]
The other sheep are grateful that anointed Christians have been with them during the last days