On Sunday morning, just before leaving for church, two smart young “Jehovah’s Witnesses” called to invite me to attend their annual celebration of “the Lord’s last evening meal”.
Apparently, it “made their day” when I turned up. If the sign outside had not announced that the building was a “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, it could have been an evangelical church building.
People were friendly, the piano playing was about as proficient as that at any Gospel Hall and the congregation lacklustrely sang turgid, dogma-saturated songs. Prayers were perfunctory and the “Talk” was interesting, at least the speaker kept my attention.
Mike the speaker informed us that Jesus has two flocks of sheep; a “little flock” and a “big flock”. The little flock is the 144,000 of revelation 7 and 14; and the others are the “great crowd” of Revelation 7. The “little flock” will spend eternity in heaven as “spirit creatures, while the rest live forever on a “Paradise earth”.
Only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant, so only they are allowed to eat the bread and drink the wine at the “Lord’s evening meal”. Last year, out of all the millions of JWs around the world, only 11,202 took the bread and wine. The 144,000 apparently know who they are because “holy spirit” reveals it to them.
I don’t think anyone at the meeting ate or drank but I have to confess that I was sorely tempted to do so.
It turned out that the young lady who invited me to the meeting was the niece of the speaker. Mike was as delighted as she was that I had turned up and he came to speak to me. After a little light-hearted banter, I asked if he was one of the 144,000. He told me he was not.
So Mike was not in the New Covenant? No.
According to Jeremiah 31, then, Mike didn’t have God’s law written in his heart, he didn’t know Jehovah and his sins were not forgiven. He assured me that even though he was not in the New Covenant, he certainly knew Jehovah and his sins were forgiven.
But if those are New Covenant blessings, how could anyone outside the covenant experience them?
By now, we had an audience, which included Mike's niece, and Mike was becoming noticeably uncomfortable. He tried to explain the anomaly in terms of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. When Israel left Egypt, a large number of non-Jews left with them and enjoyed the blessings of the covenant.
I pointed out that, according to Jeremiah 31, the New Covenant was not like the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai.
There were other points I could have made, such as how non-Jews can enjoy the blessings of a covenant promised to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah”.
Also during his talk, although Mike told us that the 144,000 were the first generation of believers in Jesus, he also informed us there was “a remnant” of them around today and that the great tribulation out of which the 144,000 had come was yet future!
The 144,000, he told us, were Christ’s “little flock” in heaven, while the “great crowd” was his other flock on “Paradise earth”. A little reflection on this cornerstone of JW teaching, however, is quite instructive.
Revelation 7:1-8 reads:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
Now considering that the 144,000 are supposed to be in heaven, is it not curious that “the earth” is mentioned five times in just eight verses and heaven is not mentioned once?
Now consider the “great crowd” in verses 9 and 10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
According to JW teaching, this mass of people is supposed to be on earth, yet the text says they are standing before the throne of Jehovah!
Mike assured me he could answer my questions but he would need to write it all down so, not wanting to cause him further embarrassment, I agreed to read what he would send me and that we should meet to discuss this further.
As I listened to Mike try to wriggle out of a tight spot, it struck me forcefully that so much of Jehovah’s Witness teaching is devoted to making the Bible say the opposite of what it actually says.
No wonder their founder, CT Russell, had to inform his followers that if they read his writings alone , they would be in light but if his followers read Bible alone, within two years they would be in darkness.
Mike and I have arranged to meet up in a couple of weeks. I’ll keep you up to speed with how the discussions go.