“We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”—ZECH. 8:23.
1, 2. (a) What did Jehovah say would happen in our time? (b) What questions will be answered in this article? (See opening picture.)
SPEAKING of the time in which we are living, Jehovah foretold: “In those days ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will take firm hold of the robe of a Jew, saying: ‘We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.’” (Zech. 8:23) Like the figurative ten men, those who have an earthly hope have taken “firm hold of the robe of a Jew.” They are proud to associate with the spirit-anointed “Israel of God,” knowing that Jehovah is blessing his anointed ones.—Gal. 6:16.
2 As did the prophet Zechariah, Jesus highlighted the refreshing unity that is experienced by God’s people. He spoke of his followers as two groups, a “little flock” and “other sheep,” but he said that they would be “one flock” with “one shepherd.” (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) However, the relationship between these two groups raises some questions: (1) Do those of the other sheep need to know the names of all those who are anointed today? (2) How should anointed ones view themselves? (3) How should you react if someone in your congregation starts to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? (4) Do you need to be concerned about any increase in the number of those partaking? Let us consider the answers to each of these questions.
DO WE NEED TO KNOW THE NAMES OF ALL THE ANOINTED TODAY?
3. Why is it not possible for us to know for sure who will be part of the 144,000?
3 Do those of the other sheep need to know the names of all those who are anointed today? The short answer is no. Why not? Because even if someone has received the heavenly calling, that person has received only an invitation, not a final confirmation of the reward. That is why Satan raises up “false prophets . . . to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matt. 24:24) No one can know whether an anointed Christian will receive his heavenly reward until Jehovah judges that person to be worthy of such a prize. Jehovah makes this determination and gives him the final sealing either sometime before he dies faithfully or sometime before the outbreak of “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 2:10; 7:3, 14) It would be pointless, then, for anyone now living on earth to try to ascertain who among God’s servants will eventually be part of the 144,000.
4. If it is not possible to know the names of all anointed ones on earth today, how can we “go with” them?
4 If it is not possible to know with certainty the names of all spiritual Israelites on earth today, how can members of the other sheep “go with” them? Notice what the prophecy in Zechariah states concerning the figurative ten men. These ones would “take firm hold of the robe of a Jew, saying: ‘We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.’” Although only one Jew is mentioned here, in both instances the pronoun “you” refers to more than one person. This spiritual Jew must, then, be a composite person, not just one individual! So it is not necessary to identify every spiritual Jew and then go with him or her. Rather, we need to identify these ones as a group and then support them as such. In no way do the Scriptures encourage us to follow an individual. Jesus is our Leader.—Matt. 23:10.
HOW SHOULD ANOINTED CHRISTIANS VIEW THEMSELVES?
5. What warning should anointed ones think seriously about, and why?
5 Those who partake of the emblems at the Memorial should carefully consider the warning found at 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. (Read.) What point is the apostle Paul here making? An anointed Christian would partake unworthily if he did not maintain a good relationship with Jehovah. (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29) Such a warning helps anointed Christians to remember that they have not yet taken hold of the reward. They need to continue to press on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 3:13-16.
6. How should anointed Christians feel about themselves?
6 Under inspiration, Paul appealed to anointed Christians “to walk worthily of the calling with which [they] were called.” How should this be done? Paul goes on to say “with all humility and mildness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3) Jehovah’s spirit promotes humility, not pride. (Col. 3:12) Modestly, anointed ones acknowledge that they do not necessarily have more holy spirit than those with an earthly hope. They do not claim to have special knowledge or revelations; neither do they try to prove that they are in some way superior. They would also never suggest to others that these too have been anointed and should start partaking; rather, they would humbly acknowledge that it is Jehovah who does the calling of anointed ones.
7, 8. What do anointed Christians not expect, and why?
7 Although it is a wonderful privilege to have the heavenly calling, anointed Christians do not expect any special honor from others. (Eph. 1:18, 19; read Philippians 2:2, 3.) Jehovah’s spirit bore witness to them personally. No announcement was made to the world. So they are not surprised if some people do not readily believe that they have truly been anointed by holy spirit. In fact, they realize that the Scriptures advise against quickly believing someone who claims to have a special appointment from God. (Rev. 2:2) In no way, then, would they use their anointing as a “calling card” to introduce themselves to others. For the most part, they would not even mention this personal experience to others, so as to avoid drawing attention to themselves; neither would they want to boast about their future reward.—1 Cor. 1:28, 29; read 1 Corinthians 4:6-8.
8 In addition, anointed Christians do not view themselves as being part of an elite club. They do not seek out others who claim to have the same calling, hoping to bond with them or endeavoring to form private groups for Bible study. (Gal. 1:15-17) Such efforts would cause divisions within the congregation and work against the holy spirit, which promotes peace and unity.—Read Romans 16:17, 18.
HOW SHOULD YOU REACT?
9. Why do you need to be careful about the way you treat those who eat the bread and drink the wine at the Memorial? (See the box “Love ‘Does Not Behave Indecently.’”)
9 How should you treat someone who partakes of the Memorial emblems? Jesus told his disciples: “All of you are brothers.” He went on to say: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12) Therefore, it would be wrong to exalt individuals, even if they are anointed brothers of Christ. Speaking about Christian elders, the Bible encourages us to imitate the faith of those who take the lead, but it never commands us to elevate any human as our leader. (Heb. 13:7) True, the Scriptures speak of some as being “considered worthy of double honor.” However, such ones are worthy of honor, not because they are anointed, but because they “preside in a fine way” and “work hard in speaking and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17) Therefore, it would be embarrassing for those with a heavenly calling if others were to give them undue praise or attention. Worse still, if they received special treatment, anointed Christians might find it difficult to remain humble. (Rom. 12:3) None of us would want to cause one of Christ’s brothers to stumble!—Luke 17:2.
10. How can you show that you respect anointed Christians?
10 How can we show appropriate respect for those whom Jehovah chooses to anoint? We would not ask them personal questions about their anointing. We thus avoid meddling with what does not concern us. (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:11) We should not assume that the parents, spouse, or other relatives of one of the anointed would also be anointed. Genetics or marriage play no part in the process. (1 Thess. 2:12) We should also resist the urge to quiz spouses of anointed ones about how they feel knowing that they will live without their mate in the future earthly Paradise. Rather than raise questions that may cause pain, all of us can have full confidence that Jehovah will open his hand and “satisfy the desire of every living thing.”—Ps. 145:16.
11. How do we protect ourselves if we avoid “admiring personalities”?
11 Those who treat anointed Christians in a proper manner protect themselves from an insidious danger. The Scriptures tell us that “false brothers” can slip into the congregation. (Gal. 2:4, 5; 1 John 2:19) These impostors may even claim to be anointed. In addition, some anointed Christians might fall away from the faith. (Matt. 25:10-12; 2 Pet. 2:20, 21) If we avoid the trap of “admiring personalities,” we will not be drawn away from the truth by such ones; nor will our faith suffer a crippling blow if a prominent or long-serving Christian becomes unfaithful.—Jude 16, ftn.
WHAT ABOUT THE NUMBER OF THOSE PARTAKING AT THE MEMORIAL?
12, 13. Why should we not worry about the number of those who eat the bread and drink the wine at the Memorial?
12 In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of those partaking at the Memorial of Christ’s death. That trend contrasts with the decrease in the number of partakers that we saw for many decades. Should this increase trouble us? No. Let us consider some key factors to keep in mind.
13 “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” (2 Tim. 2:19) Those taking the count at the Memorial cannot judge who truly have the heavenly hope. The number of partakers includes those who mistakenly think that they are anointed. Some who at one point started to partake of the emblems later stopped. Others may have mental or emotional problems that lead them to believe that they will rule with Christ in heaven. Therefore, the number of partakers does not accurately indicate the number of anointed ones left on earth.
14. What does the Bible say about the number of anointed ones who will be on earth when the great tribulation starts?
14 Anointed ones will be present in many parts of the earth when Jesus comes to gather them to heaven. Speaking of that time, the Bible says regarding Jesus: “He will send out his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Matt. 24:31) The Scriptures do indicate that only a remnant of the anointed ones will be left on earth during the last days. (Rev. 12:17) However, the Bible does not state how many will be left at the time that the great tribulation begins.
15, 16. What do we need to understand about the 144,000 chosen by Jehovah?
15 Jehovah chooses when in history he will select anointed ones. (Rom. 8:28-30) Jehovah began choosing anointed ones after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it seems that all in the first-century Christian congregation were anointed. From the first century until the beginning of the last days, the vast majority of those who claimed to follow Christ were false Christians; Jesus likened them to “weeds.” Even so, Jehovah continued to anoint some faithful ones throughout that time, and they proved to be like the “wheat” Jesus described. (Matt. 13:24-30) During the last days, Jehovah has continued to select those who will make up the 144,000. If he chooses to wait until late into that period to select some for that privilege, who are we to question his wisdom? (Isa. 45:9; Dan. 4:35; read Romans 9:11, 16.) We must be careful not to react like the disgruntled workers who complained about the way their master dealt with the 11th-hour workers.—Read Matthew 20:8-15.
16 Not all who have the heavenly hope are part of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) As in the first century, Jehovah and Jesus today are feeding many through the hands of a few. Only a few anointed Christians in the first century were used to write the Christian Greek Scriptures. Similarly today, only a few anointed Christians have been appointed to provide spiritual “food at the proper time.”
17. What have you learned from this article?
17 What have we learned from our discussion? Jehovah has chosen to give two separate rewards—heavenly life for spiritual Jews and earthly life for the symbolic ten men. Yet, he requires the same standard of faithfulness from both those with a heavenly calling and those with an earthly hope. Both groups must remain humble. Both groups must be united. Both groups must promote peace in the congregation. As the last days draw to a close, let all of us be determined to serve as one flock under Christ.