Another Blog from UK Partnerships for Christ (www.upfc.org.uk)

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Israel – From Literal to Spiritual by Jason Wright

jewishhopesbyc-t-russellJehovah’s Witnesses and Israel – From Literal to Spiritual By Jason Wright

The question of Israel and the Jews is a rather mute subject amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses and for good reason. The Watch Tower has long taught its members that within the economy of God literal Israel is now defunct and has been replaced or superseded by spiritual Israel – comprising of 144,000 spirit-anointed witnesses. This elite group are said to have their eternal dwelling secure in heaven, for the purpose of ruling forever over a restored paradise earth.

“In the year 33 C.E., the fleshly nation of Israel lost its claim to be God’s chosen nation when it rejected Jehovah’s Son, the Messiah. The Messiah himself put it this way: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her . . . Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:37, 38)… Christians who were selected by holy spirit thus belong to a spiritual nation, their membership not being determined by birth or geographic location… Speaking of these members of the Israel of God, or spiritual Jews, Paul wrote: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code. The praise of that one comes, not from men, but from God.”—Romans 2:28, 29… the modern State of Israel was not foretold in the Bible, the establishment of the nation of spiritual Israel certainly was! (WTBTS, 2010 pp. 27-29)

Despite this clear statement the Watch Tower has not always been supercessionist. To the surprise of many for over fifty years C. T. Russell and to some extent J. F. Rutherford both taught that the Bible predicted a restoration of the Jews back to Palestine during the “last days” followed by an active role for Israel within the Millennium kingdom.

The purpose of this article is to explore how and why Russell’s literalist hermeneutic[1] was later rejected in favor of the spiritualization of Israel. While modern Jehovah’s witnesses may reject such an excursus as “old light” it is essential to understand the historical situation and push-pull factors behind the changes in order to evaluate doctrinal veracity. Overall it shall be argued that the Jehovah’s Witness view of spiritual Israel is hermeneutically and historically untenable.

The Restoration of Israel 

In his publication Thy Kingdom Come[2] thykingdomcomeC. T. Russell commits a whole chapter to the subject of Israel’s restoration. He writes:

“The re-establishment of Israel in the land of Palestine is one of the events to be expected in this Day of the Lord. The prophecy [Amos 9:11, 14-15] cannot be interpreted in any symbolic sense. They [Jews] are to be planted upon “their land” the land which God says he had given them, the land which he promised to Abraham… to this day [they] look and long for the hope of Israel. The literalness of the promised return of Israel to their own land and the rebuilding of Jerusalem upon her own heaps cannot be questioned…the promised reconstruction of Jerusalem upon her old foundations implies a national reorganization of Israel” emphasis added (Russell, 1915, p. 243-44, 257-258).

In this chapter, Russell weaves his way through the promises made to Abraham, touching on Israel’s subsequent apostasy and final rejection of Jesus,

“Estranged from God and from fellow-men of every nation, sad and pitiable indeed has been their miserable condition…God has permitted these afflictions…as the penalty for the national crime of rejection of the gospel and crucifixion of the redeemer, he [God] will nevertheless in due time reward the consistency of their faith in his promises, to which they have so perseveringly held” emphasis added (Russell, 1915, p. 247).

In Russell’s mind the Jews had held fast to the promises of God, and Jehovah would not fail to fulfill these promises, indeed Russell believed the restoration had already began.

“God foreknew their pride and hardness of heart” and “the time for the promised restoration of God’s favor to Israel draws on” emphasis added (Russell, 1915, p. 247).

Employing chronological calculations Russell announced; “Prophecies, already examined point to the year 1878 as the date at which Israel’s “double” time of waiting for the King was fulfilled, and from which the return to favor and the turning away of their blindness were due…from that date onward, we see, as we should expect, marked indications of returning favor to that people…a movement toward their actual rebuilding as a great nation according to God’s multiplied promises to that effect…they had a marked begging in 1878” emphasis added (Russell, 1915, pp. 258-260)

The remainder of the chapter lists examples of political progress, purchase of land in Palestine, evidences of Jewish return and establishment of agricultural colonies. Moreover Russell lists pages of direct quotes from various sources, many of which are Zionist, each example providing evidence that Jewish restoration was well under way.

“Blindness, in part, is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in… 1881…marks the time for the beginning of the turning back again of special light upon the long blinded Jews… the present beginnings of favor to Israel are only droppings before a mighty shower which will refresh, not only Israel, but all mankind” emphasis added (Russell, 1915, pp. 277-278, 287).

Interestingly Russell held in tension literal Israel alongside spiritual Israel. He viewed both as legitimate realities.

“We believe that spiritual Israel is nearly complete, therefore we are expecting blessings upon the Israelites who are according to the flesh, and the turning away of their blindness, anticipating that they will be the first of the restitution class to be blessed by spiritual Israel…after they have thus received mercy through the complete and glorified church of Christ, they will indeed be used as the Lord’s instrument for blessing all the families of the earth, and thus the Abrahamic promises will be fulfilled unto both the seeds – both that which is according to the flesh, and that which is according to the spirit” (Russell, 1915, pp. 299).

While visiting Jerusalem in 1891 Russell wrote directly to Baron Hirsch and Baron Rothschild encouraging them in their quest for a Jewish homeland, boldly suggesting ways to purchase land from Turkey as well as how to establish political rule and befittingly administer a new Israel. Here are some exerts from his letter:

“Palestine shall be constituted a FREE STATE, the government of which shall be in the hands of a board of thirteen Directors, appointed as follows: One Director to be chosen by each of the following Governments: – Great Britain and Ireland, France, Germany, Russia, Austria, Italy, Turkey, Greece, and the United States of America, should they approve the scheme; and the remainder of the thirteen to be elected by the suffrages of the people of Syria, none being eligible to said election who has not lived in the land for three consecutive years.

Religious liberty should be fully guaranteed to all the inhabitants. Each Director should be a resident of the land during the tenure of office, and should receive L1,000 sterling per annum, and no other fees, emoluments or bribes, under penalty of disgrace and banishment…Each of the nations invited to join representatively in the government should be required to contribute a sum of money, say L10,000, for the carrying out of the project and as a test of its interest in the welfare of the land and its people.

This I conceive to be a feasible plan, because all of the above nations are interested in Palestine, having directly or indirectly expended large sums of money there… A liberal Constitution should be drawn up, alterable only by the consent of at least nine of the thirteen Directors.

What is needed here… is a good government, which will protect the poor from the ravenous and wealthy. Banking institutions on sound bases, and doing business honorably, are also greatly needed.

I believe that now is the Lord’s time for the long promised deliverance of Israel…May the God of Jacob direct you, my dear Sir, and all interested with you in the deliverance and prosperity of Israel, and blessed will they be who, to any extent, yield themselves as his servants in fulfilling his will as predicted. (WTBTS 1891, pp. 168-173)

Russell was unequivocally a pro-active political Zionist. In fact Benjamin Netanyahu, while Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations acknowledged, “A recognition of Pastor Russell’s important role as an early American Christian advocate of Zionism is long overdue.” (Horowitz, 1986 back jacket) How different this is from Russell’s modern day progeny[3].screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-11-21-33

Under the heading “Are Jehovah’s witnesses Zionist” JW.org poignantly asserts:

No, they are not. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who base their beliefs on the Scriptures. While some religions teach that the gathering of Jews in Palestine is related to Scriptural prophecy, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold this view. They do not believe that this political development was specifically foretold in the Scriptures. In fact, the Scriptures do not promote any one human government or exalt one ethnic group or people over another. The Watchtower, the official magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has unequivocally stated: “There [is] no Scriptural support for political Zionism.” emphasis added. [4]

They go on to say that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was nothing more than a political anomaly manufactured through the United Nations, which they claim is an anti-Christ organization. scarlet-beast-un

“The symbolic scarlet colored wild beast – the eight king – [united nations] today is designed to look like a world government. The Nations will use the scarlet colored wild beast, the United Nations, in destroying Babylon the Great.” (WTBTS, 1988, pp. 253-258)

Antithetically this same Watch Tower article scolds evangelical Christians for believing that modern Israel might fulfill bible prophecy.

“Some Evangelical Protestants believe that the modern State of Israel thus fulfilled a Bible prophecy. For example, in the book Jerusalem Countdown, clergyman John Hagee states: “This momentous occasion had been recorded by the pen of the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘A nation shall be born in a day.’ (See Isaiah 66:8.) . . . It was the greatest moment in prophetic history of the twentieth century. It was living evidence for all men to see that the God of Israel was alive and well.”

As to why the Watch Tower chose John Hagee as their evangelical example is a mystery. However the irony is astonishing, because on the question of Israel C.T. Russell and John Hagee unquestionably agree; they both uphold what is known today as “duel covenant theology” believing that Abrahams decedents are saved through the eternal covenants.[5] Such hypocrisy is concealed by Watch Tower revisionists whom hide the facts of history from a new generation of members.

In stark contrast, between 1879-1934 Watch Tower adherents were Zionist. In fact everything about the magazine and corporation was Zionist. The magazine was called Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ presence – the corporation was called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. Jewish imagery such as the star of David featured in many publications. We may conjecture; If Russell and his fellow believers had lived to see Israel’s rebirth in 1948 what would they have concluded? Surely that Jehovah had used the United Nations to accomplish his will for his covenant people.

Theological Origins.

Where then did Russell acquire his understanding of Israel? Firstly his approach to the Old Testament text concerning Israel was literalist. Israel meant Israel. A hallmark of literalism is the belief that God will return the Jews to the Promised Land probably before conversion (Schulz, de Vienne, 2014, p. 57). To mainstream Adventism[6] Jewish restoration was (and is) an anathema. Adventists of the mid 1800’s holding a Zionist position were at odds with their brethren and invariably separated out to form their own peculiar brand. Foremost among the Jewish restorationist were the Age to Come groups.

Influential in Russell’s adoption of Zionism was his mentor Jonas Wendell as well as George Stetson. Stetson had become an Age to come believer in 1860 and wrote regularly in the journal The Restitution and The Rainbow. Russell had long read both periodicals from which he adopted Zionism. George Storrs and Nelson Barbour were also influential in Russell’s restorationist views. (Schulz, de Vienne, 2014, pp. 85, 88-90, 164). Zionist support continued through the tenure of the second Watch Tower president J. F. Rutherford up until 1932.

Israel is absolutely certain to be fully established as a nation and the Jews again as a specially favored people of God. The zealous workers in Zionism today are fulfilling prophecy Zionism is one of the steps in the great divine program.” emphasis added (WTBTS, 1921a, pp. 369-382)

“In due time God raised up Theodor Herzl to begin to stir in the minds of the Jews a desire to return to Palestine. Any one who has visited Palestine…knows that this prophecy [Amos 9:11, 14-15] is now actually in course of fulfillment…That God intends that the Jews shall again inhabit this land and build their homes there, He plainly states through his prophet [Isaiah 65:21-23]. The time has come for the Jews to return to Palestine…fulfilling prophecy” emphasis added (WTBTS 1921b pp. 707-716).

“[The] regathering of Israel to Palestine would be one of the most conclusive proofs of his presence” emphasis added. (Rutherford, 1921 p. 256)

“In the spring of 1918, the Jews began to rebuild Palestine; … This is another physical fact or circumstantial proof of the Lord’s presence at the end of the world” emphasis added. (Rutherford, 1927 pp. 306-307)

In 1925 Rutherford published the book Comfort for the Jews[7] comfortforthejewsin which he repeats much of Russellite Zionism. In total there are over 600 pages of Watch Tower literature dedicated to the restoration of the Jews (Gruss, 2007, p. 208)

New Light

New Light – or progressive theology, was adopted early by Russell and has been the Watch Tower’s fall back mechanism for decades. In essence progressive theology anticipates that a developing body of information, and those who accept it as truth, must be prepared to accept changes as new light is shed on any given subject” (Zydek, 2010, p. 81). Conveniently for the Watch Tower the channel for new light was assumed the form of the Governing Body[8] of Jehovah’s witnesses.

Through a declaration of the Governing Body a doctrine held for decades and once taught as “truth” can be modified or jettisoned according to the latest “light”. In other words “truth” is understood as fluid, progressive and always evolving. Hence as Jehovah reveals new light to the Governing Body an old truth can be replaced with a new truth without the slightest blow back.

Watch Tower Zionism is a good example of doctrinal revisionism. In 1932, after upholding Zionism since his first contact with Russell in 1894 Rutherford employs new light theology to present a radically different Israel to his followers (WTBTS, 1894, p. 1646).

The revision began in 1931 at the Colombus, Ohio convention wherein the official name “Jehovah’s witnesses” was adopted for the movement. The praxis for this move aimed to distinguish Rutherford’s followers from other schismic Bible student groups. The name itself is taken from the prophecy of Isa 43:10 “You yourselves are my witnesses, declares Yahweh, and the servant whom I have chosen,” (JB).

However, this interpretation encounters a hermeneutical obstacle of mammoth proportions. In the context of chapter 43 God is speaking to fleshly Israel: And now, thus says Yahweh, he who created you, Jacob, who formed you, Israel: Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine. (JB)

How then, can literal Israel be substituted for the anointed class of the Watch Tower? If one employs a literal, historical, grammatical hermeneutic then the application is preposterous. Nevertheless Rutherford overcomes the literal, historical meaning via hyper-spiritualization; literal Israel becomes spiritual Israel, and with one sweeping claim the Watch Tower movement becomes the spiritual airs of ancient Israel.

The fallout from this interpretation is obvious. In the economy of God Israel is finished and therefore Jewish restoration cannot be attributed to Jehovah. Instead the promises given to ancient Israel are usurped and applied to the 144,000 anointed class. Thus in one fell swoop Rutherford extinguished fifty years of Zionism.

In 1932, with a heightened sense of God’s hand upon the organization, Rutherford published his second in a series of three books entitled Vindication[9]. vindicationHerein Rutherford claims that biblical prophecy was undergoing fulfillment through spiritual Israel. In technical language this is known as reader-response criticism wherein the reading community – in this case Rutherford – reinterprets scripture in light of his community i.e. the Watch Tower. In turn the literal restoration of the Jews to Palestine is now deemed an anathema.

“The fact that many Jews, are now back in Palestine does not sanctify the name of Jehovah. On the other hand, God has brought forth his people and given them a new name [Jehovah’s witnesses] and made them his witnesses, and it is for his own name’s sake and is the work of sanctifying his great name amongst the people…God’s anointed people now have the testimony from Jehovah that they are his, called forth to his work, for the purpose of making known his great name, and thus he is sanctified before the eyes of his people, and other people are being made to know that Jehovah is God. The facts therefore prove that the prophecy has its fulfillment upon spiritual Israel, God’s true people now on the earth.” Emphasis added (Rutherford, 1932, p. 268)

Concerning Ezekiel 36:8-10 Rutherford wrote; This prophecy could not be applied properly to natural Israel, but does apply to God’s faithful people now on earthThe facts show the fulfillment of this prophecy upon the spiritual Israel, that is, the anointed people of God now on the earth. Since the World War God has caused his King at his temple to revive his work and his people relating to the interests of his kingdom. Emphasis added (Rutherford, 1932, p. 260)

Concerning Ezekiel 36:28 Rutherford wrote; This prophecy could not now apply to fleshly Israel, but it does clearly apply to God’s remnant. To the twelve apostles the kingdom interests and privileges on earth were originally committed, and now these kingdom interests and privileges are committed to the “faithful and wise servant“, which is the remnant of spiritual Israel. Emphasis added (Rutherford, 1932, p. 272)

Concerning Ezekiel 37:1-14 Rutherford wrote; the chief fulfillment of this prophecy must be upon spiritual Israel, that is, the spirit-begotten ones including the remnant and the “great multitude”. There can be no deviation from the divinely announced rule, It is impossible to get away from the truth that Jehovah caused these prophecies to be written for the benefit of those who shall be engaged in the work of publishing his name and his kingdom on earth…There seems to be no reasonable ground for applying the prophecy of Ezekiel 37: 15-28 to the Jews now in Palestine. Whether there will be some application thereof to the Jews and others during the time of restitution of mankind, we do not know. It seems quite certain that the prophecy applies at the present day to the spiritual people of God now on earth, who are representatives of the twelve tribes mentioned in Revelation 7: 4-8…”And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” (37: 28) These are the spiritual Israelites. This means that Jehovah will sanctify his faithful “servant” class unto himself and to his service; and that the “servant” class, including the remnant, which are the people of God for his name, will sanctify the name of Jehovah forever. emphasis added (Rutherford, 1932, pp. 279, 295, 304)

In all these examples can be observed the transference of prophecies concerning natural Israel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Under the guise of “New light” Rutherford overturned his own belief system and created a wholly new metanarrative. By 1932 the Watch Tower had abandoned Zionism, they came to feel that they and they alone were his chosen, his elect. Hence they held that the clergy of all religions – including Judaism – had ranged themselves on Satan’s side in opposition to the Lord, his Christ and his Christian witnesses (Penton, 2002, p. 129)

“By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah’s witnesses came to see that such a “back to Palestine” movement was by the spirit of Jehovah’s archfoe, Satan, who has deceived the entire inhabited earth.” (WTBTS, 1955, p. 296)

This troubling statement suggests that Zionism was satanic. If true then Russell and his followers for fifty years preached a doctrine of demons? How could Jehovah’s organization get it so wrong for so long? Surely such error debunks the notion that Jehovah’s witnesses are spirit directed. In truth the vain imaginations of men lead this religion, as the evidence substantiates.

Why change?

In many ways Rutherford was the victim of his own circumstances. He was enamored with Russellite theology, convinced of the Watch Tower’s unique place in God’s divine plan and certain of the end of the age in 1914. However with the death of Russell alongside the failure of prophetic dates, confusion ensued leading to organizational conflict and eventually schism. Additionally Rutherford found himself behind bars after the publication of the Finished Mystery – called by the US attorney general “one of the most dangerous examples of … propaganda … a work written in extremely religious language (Macmillan, 1957, p. 89)

After his release and exoneration organizational change was inevitable. Moreover the world itself was changing, Nazi Germany was persecuting Jews, and any hope of a Jewish homeland had faded. Together these dynamics helped Rutherford take a step away from literalism into spiritualization a methodology now employed in every Watchtower magazine. As William J. Schnell observes:

“From now on the high Watch Tower organization claimed the total benefits of the Jewish nation on a spiritual sphere, appropriating to itself all the prophecies given to the Jews. From henceforth, the issues of the Watchtower were utilized for a rewriting of the entire Old Testament into Watch Tower verbiage, claiming a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in Jehovah’s witnesses.” (Schnell, 1956, p. 91.)

 Who is Israel?

From a Christian perspective the question of Israel follows two broad theological positions. The first is known as the continuity perspective and best expressed through reformed covenant or replacement theology[10]. Continuity suggests that the Christian church inherits the promises of God made to Abraham. Consequently the Church supersedes national Israel. To achieve this change a literal reading of the Old Testament is not sufficient, instead the text must be spiritualized to mean the Church. For example, when scripture speaks of Israel being restored to the land, this really means that the Christian church will be blessed and so forth.

The second perspective is known as discontinuity, best expressed through dispensational theology[11]. Discontinuity suggests that Israel and the Church are distinct groups. God dealt with literal Israel under the law and then in the Christian dispensation he works through the Church. However each group remains distinct and the promises God made to Abraham remain yet to be fulfilled upon the Jews. To arrive at this interpretation a literal hermeneutic is employed. Israel literally means Israel.

Both continuity and discontinuity models are based upon scripture. Each has valid points of argumentation. Unfortunately these theological positions cause polarization, heated debate and sometimes division. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve further into these perspectives. However, for those wishing to explore more fully this topic I would suggest the book Continuity and Discontinuity – Perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments by John S. Feinberg.

The main point to remember is that both protagonists believe that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone[12] – which is the heart of the Gospel message unifying all true Christians (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 5:1) Israel is essentially a non-salvific peripheral subject and thus we are at liberty to hold differing positions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it has been shown that Russell was a fully-fledged Zionist. He proclaimed a literalist message of divine restoration of the Jews to Palestine, a message that echoed throughout Watch Tower publications for over fifty years. Russell lived and died a Zionist[13].

Rutherford on the other hand began as a Zionist and defended this doctrine up to the publication of his book Vindication volume II in 1932. While anti-Semitic rhetoric did creep into later 1920’s literature it was Vindication that finally rejected Zionism. Employing a spiritualizing hermeneutic Rutherford procured Israel and the title “Jehovah’s witnesses” for his own movement. In so doing the 144,000 became the new spiritual Israel.

From literal to spiritual – a change made possible by virtue of new light theology and perhaps inevitable if the Watch Tower was to survive beyond 1914. Today the mantle of spiritual Israel plays out through the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Through spiritualization this small group of men have been turned into an all-powerful magisterium dictating religious belief, policy and practice. Today Rutherford’s spiritualization of Old Testament Israel echoes throughout Watchtower literature.

Having looked at the Christian model of continuity and its spiritualization of literal Israel it might be suggested that the two hermeneutical methods are comparable. However, careful examination reveals that replacement theology identifies spiritual Israel as the whole Christian Church and does not attribute the title spiritual Israel to any specific religious group. For example the 144,000 are interpreted as being the whole church[14]. This universal view conflicts with Watch Tower theology wherein spiritual Israel is limited to just 144,000 and represented today by the “faithful slave” or Governing body. Can these few men truly represent all of spiritual Israel? governing-body-2013

Invariably this interpretation creates a two-tear system of salvation. Those of the 144,000 spiritual Israel are predestined to heavenly glory – while the remaining majority of Jehovah’s witnesses are said to belong to an earthly class. Moreover for Christians holding to a discontinuity position then this interpretation of Israel is simply absurd.

Overall we can conclude that both hermeneutically and historically the Jehovah’s witnesses go beyond what is written by appropriating the title Israel. In fact they go beyond spiritualization by creating new meaning according to the needs of the community. Thus the whole of the Bible is routinely interpreted through the lens of spiritual Israel (144,000). As highlighted earlier this is a form of reader response criticism, hermeneutically untenable in every way. Without a shadow of a doubt Rutherford’s spiritual Israel is a fabrication created to address prophetic failure and to re-envision and secure the Watch Tower’s future. As such this false Israel of God should be categorically rejected.

I urge Jehovah’s witnesses, to re-examine this important chapter in Watch Tower history and weigh carefully doctrinal changes. It is insufficient to accept new light without critical examination. Scripture urges that we test and check everything.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11 (ESV)

Test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV)

It is time to break free – Christ is waiting – do not submit to this false doctrine of 144,000 spiritual Israel for a moment longer. Pray for guidance and revelation, you will not be disappointed.

May God the father richly bless you and reveal fully his Son Jesus to you – If the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

Shalom

Jason Wright

REFERENCES

Bibles: JB / Jerusalem Bible; ESV / English Standard Version

Gruss, E. C. (2007). Jehovah’s Witnesses: Their claims, doctrinal changes, and prophetic speculation. What does the record show? (2nd ed.). Maitland, FL: Xulon Press.

Horowitz, D. (1986). Pastor Charles Taze Russell: An Early American Christian  Zionist New York: Philosophical Library.

Macmillan, A. H. (1957). Faith on the March Prentice Hall Inc. Englewood Cliffs N.J.

Penton, M. J. (2002). Apocalypse Delayed – The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2nd Edition) University of Toronto Press.

Russell, C. T. (1915) Studies in the Scriptures Vol. 3 Thy Kingdom Come. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Rutherford, J. F. (1925). Comfort for the Jews. NY: International Bible Students Association.

Rutherford, J. F. (1921a). The Harp of God. NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Rutherford, J. F. (1927). Creation. NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Rutherford, J. F. (1932). Vindication Vol. 2. NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Schnell, W. J. (1956) Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave Grand Rapids Baker Book House.

Schulz, B. W. and de Vienne, R. (2014). A Separate Identity – Organizational Identity among readers of Zion’s Watch Tower 1870-1887. Fluttering Wings Press.

WTBTS. (December, 1891). A New Government for Palestine Proposed Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Vol. XII Reprint pp. 1342-1343.

WTBTS. (April 15, 1894). Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Vol. XV Reprint p. 1646.

WTBTS. (March 16 and 30 1921a) Zionism Certain to Succeed Golden Age Vol. II Easter Number pp. 369-382.

WTBTS. (August 31, 1921b) Is Zionism a Stupendous fallacy? Golden Age Vol. II pp. 707-716.

WTBTS. (May 15, 1955). Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses: Part 10. The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, p. 296.

WTBTS. (1988). Revelation: Its grand climax at hand. Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

WTBTS. (November 1, 2010). Does Bible Prophecy Point to the Modern State of Israel? The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom pp. 27-29.

Zydek, F. (2009). Charles Taze Russell: His life and times. The man, the millennium and the message. United States: Winthrop Press.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Russell was not wholly a literalist; rather he employed an array of interpretive methods including typology, allegory, and Gnosticism.

[2] http://www.jwfacts.com/publications/studies/Studies-3-thy-kingdom-come-1911.pdf

[3] Today various Watch Tower schismic groups still hold to Russell’s teachings on Zionism.

[4] https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/beliefs-about-zionism/

[5] Such a view is a grave error bordering heresy. In actual fact all people including Jews must accept Jesus as Lord and Savior to obtain redemption and eternal life.

[6] http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/1456/archives/issue-2007-1531/how-should-christians-view-israel

[7] http://ia601406.us.archive.org/23/items/WatchtowerLibrary/books/1925_cfj_E.pdf

[8] https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2014/09/01/jehovahs-organisation-the-grand-illusion/

[9] http://ia601406.us.archive.org/23/items/WatchtowerLibrary/books/1932_vin2_E.pdf

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology

[11] https://carm.org/dispensationalism

[12] https://carm.org/why-is-faith-alone-in-christ-alone-the-only-way-to-be-saved

[13] https://ia800309.us.archive.org/0/items/JewishHopesByC.t.Russell/1910_Jewish_Hopes.pdf

[14] http://www.christianity.com/blogs/hank-hanegraaff/who-are-the-144-000-of-revelation.html

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Categorised in: Israel, New Light, The One Hundred and Forty Four Thousand., Uncategorized

24 Responses »

  1. Yes that’s right Jehovah’s Witnesses do not read the Bible and manufacturing with their own twisted doctrines.
    As a Jewish man when I was Jehovah Witness it was very disgusting to read such a blasphemy and mock on Jewish people and that was also one of many reasons I cannot stay in this religion anymore.
    The prophesies starts and end with Jewish people or state of Israel and prophesies from Old Testament promises All Israel will b saved.The God disciplined and never ever gave up his chosen nation.

    All these churches are going to be destroyed and those who kept faith in Jesus-Yeshua will be saved!Its so simple and important to know and realize that.Shabat Shalom bro.

    • Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that the LORD led you out of the Watch Tower. Praise YHWH!
      While I agree with your discontinuity position, we must be gracious to other Christians who share a different position, although I agree that when Jesus return’s all false religion will be swept away forever – Amen and Amen.

  2. Jason , thanks for another great article . You’ve mentioned yet another doctrinal flip flop by Watchtower leaders .

    The Watchtower’s alibi of ” new light” to excuse it’s pattern of teaching unstable doctrines is simply a diversion to keep members in the W.t. organization from thinking hard about why there has been so many of them .

    Those in the W,t, organization can be loyal to Jehovah by dismissing the W.t. from their lives and studying God’s Word and interpreting it for themselves .
    We get to pray for them to take that step to freedom .

    • Thanks Mike, a pleasure to research and share. The point of the article is indeed to highlight the flip-flop nature of WT theology. How an organization can change at will even the most embedded doctrines, in this case over fifty years of zionism is simply incredible.

      We pray indeed for Jehovahs witnesses to experience the freedom of Christ in their lives. To be a christian is a place of liberty, hope and assurance. May our LORD give Jehovah’s witnesses light to discern, critique and break free from WT bondage.

      Every blessing – Jason

  3. I have a question about the discontinuity position. The Bible says that God promised to make the New Covenant with Israel (Jer. 31:31), so if Israel is distinct from the Church then that implies that the New Covenant is not made with the Church. “Grafting in” the gentiles (Rom. 11) does not make them Israel as that would destroy the distinction between Israel and Gentile Church. So how does the Church benefit from the New Covenant?

    John MacArthur teaches (if I have understood correctly) that Israel is party to the New Covenant but the gentile Church is beneficiary to it. Is that the correct understanding of discontinuity doctrine with regard to the New Covenant?

    • Great point Tim,I encourage you to make research on New Testament.
      In my view many followers of Jesus had many different views on Jesus and it was not United of doctrines we can see now in mainstream churches.
      Especially doctrines of Paul/Shaul contradicts Gospels and also these 4 gospels contradicts too self shockingly from same story.
      The Gentiles following doctrines of Paul and forget to strictly follow commandments from Jesus only.
      I am not here to judge others what or how they interpret scriptures.I can only say scriptures promised Jewish people to be saved and all Judeo Christian religion starts and ends with Jewish people and those who tries replace Jewish people with something else is basically killing APPLE OF THE EYE OF YHWH.

      The New Testament is creation of Roman emperor and we are still talking about copies of the copies and there is no original manuscripts and copies we have sadly in Greek or Coptic and not in Hebrew as all writers of New Testament were Jewish and if they would write something would write in their mother tongue.

      I personally stick with Old Testament,Prophets and Jesus.
      It’s a waste of my time to listen gentile churches how they interpret scriptures.I think God reveals to you through your life how or what way to understand scriptures when you study Gods word and you pray so God can work with you and reveals to you all.Shalom.

      • Hello Kamil, I must interject here – I thought you were a Christian? A follower of Yeshua? As was Paul? Yet you say the Gospels and writings of Paul contradict one another? You say these are gentile doctrines? That the NT is a creation of the Roman Emperor? What utter nonsense. It appears you hate gentiles?

        I respect your right to your opinions but please cease from posting such statements on this blog. I’m not sure where you have picked these ideas up but they are wholly in error, even heretical. I feel I can speak with some authority having studied the Bible at an academic level, including MSS transmission, greek, etc.

        As a ministry we hold firmly to orthodoxy and the inherency of scripture – both old and new. Correct understanding comes as a result of the whole cannon of scripture (biblical theology) – aided by correct methodology and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To cast off the NT is to leave oneself in darkness concerning the Messiah.

        Finally for anyone wishing to study the Church and Israel at an academic level. Kings Divinity College offer a number of modules on the subject:

        https://www.kingsdivinity.org/courses/cert-jcj

        May the LORD open your eyes to the B’rit Hadashah. I recommend to you the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern as a helpful crossover for Jewish believers.
        Shalom
        Jason

      • Hello Jason,
        That’s right I am not Christian because it’s implementation by RomanCatholic Church’s-Gentile and Pagan but simply follower Of Jewish Messiah-Jesus.
        Jason,you must be not very good student in New Testament because when you read Gospels all four apostles describes story very different story and Paul(Shaul) contradicting Jesus commandments.

        Jason,I have right to express my opinion however I don’t insist people to believe me or obey gentile manufactured religious views.
        My findings are from entire Catholic Bible,Hebrew manuscripts and gnostic gospels and historical and archaeological evidence!
        You say my findings are non sense!You see you being Judgmental like Jehovah’s Witnesses leaving one religion and joining another one.I think this is hypocritical leaving one religion and joining another one.
        You don’t like my views so why you allowing me my comment over here!It seems you being not better then Jehovah’s Witnesses telling me what to believe!I am not doing that!

        All I do I can solidly back up instead believing blindly something some men teach for very long time!
        You decided to follow orthodoxy and that’s your choice however I wouldn’t tell you what is wrong or right!
        I do not follow Christianity,religion,theologians or orthodoxy but follow Torah as Jesus and Apostles and Prophets!
        I am Jewish and study consistently Hebrew Scriptures original text and not Greek text which are only copies and many gentiles believing Paul(Shaul) doctrines which I do not follow.

        No I don’t hate gentiles however your behavior shows you don’t like Jewish views.
        You promote men doctrines and theologians which I do not follow!
        I encourage you to make some research and physical evidence on things by Paul(Shaul) you strictly follow!

        Shabat Shalom.

      • Dear Kamil,

        If you wish to know the real Jesus, then I’m happy to share him with you. What you have is “another Jesus” – In contrast the revelation of Christ – the incarnate logos – his life and actions, and the doctrines God has given are in both the Old and New Testaments. To reject the NT revelation is to reject the Messiah. Please, please look again. The Jehovah’s witnesses whom you joined were indeed wrong, but please do not reject the NT because of their error and your bad experience.

        Myself, I did not decide to follow orthodoxy, I chose to follow the truth. Yahweh spoke to me through his word and revealed by the Holy Spirit his son to me – who is the truth, way and life. I know him personally as my saviour, that he died for my sin, that he rose again, and is coming soon for his bride. God called me, as he calls you. While subjective this is my testimony.

        By saying “you being Judgmental like Jehovah’s Witnesses leaving one religion and joining another one”. To you (and others) it may appear that way, but I assure you I have joined no religion, I have joined the family of God, I have been born again as a child of God and therefore I cannot lie to you about this truth. Instead – as did the apostles and saints before me – I proclaim the truth of Messiah and am commanded to defend the truth of scripture, both Old and New. This is my passion.

        Titus 1:4 “Use these accurate teachings to encourage people, and correct those who oppose the word”

        I recognise this verse for you is a roman heresy, yet biblical Christians believe such words to be inspired and authoritative. The apostles and Church fathers accepted the canonical books as “scripture”. Hence for me to employ apologetics, polemics and plain common sense is not being judgemental. I am aware of the various liberal views and theories concerning apocryphal writers etc. While interesting I find no substance in the theories.

        Furthermore the idea that I cannot make a truth claim because that is arrogant, hypocritical or judgemental is to fall into the fallacy of post-modernism, a philosophy wherein no truth exists, and all truth is relative. The Bible knows of no such philosophy. Truth is truth and all men must know no matter how non-PC that may be.

        You are more than welcome to join me in our weekly study of the Gospel of Mark, in which I compare all synoptics alongside John’s Gospel. In all my years I have not found contradictions, only slight nuances of eye witness accounts, which in itself proves the authenticity of the NT text. Furthermore I find no contradictions in Paul’s letters with the Gospels, nor in any 1st century archaelogy. Nevertheless my faith is not built upon words on a page but in my relationship with Christ – the son of God. It is upon that relationship that I live, breath and die. That Jesus died for your sins. He is the way, the truth and the life.

        Please remember the Hebrew text is itself a copy of older MSS. No OT book is extant. All originals are lost, as are the NT originals. I see no argument against NT MSS transmission. Variants in both hebrew and greek are inevitable through human error. However, variants do not make a text erroneous for critical apparatus locates and eliminates error providing as close to the original text as in humanly possible. This applies to both the hebrew and greek MSS.

        Please remember, UPFC is here to educate and equip the Church in order to help Jehovah’s Witnesses and any other person who may seek truth i.e. Jesus. We are happy to discuss topics but UPFC is not here as a platform to proselytise a false Gospel (Galatians 1:8).

        Finally I love the Jewish people, I am a zionist and reach out to Jewish people wherever I can. I apologise if my comments have masked that love. In my congregation we have one’s who work to return the Jews to Israel. I am a member of prayer for Israel and we defend Israel at every turn. I love my Jewish Messiah, Yeshua and his covenant people.

        Shabat Shalom
        Jason

        I encourage you to re-think the teachings of Shaul/Paul:
        “Paul the Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee among Christians, Jews and Gentiles” by Brad H. Young
        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Jewish-Theologian-Pharisee-Christians/dp/0801048214

      • Jason,

        I do not reject New Testament but accept what God directly confirmed and visibly.

        I acknowledging New Testament does not have original copies but only copies and those copies are questionable and this is reason why so many Jewish people has so much trouble to accept legitimacy of New Testament as Old Testament is.
        The Paul(Shaul) caused many confusion in first century and same in our century so it is easy to figure this out what is important to follow and what is not important to follow.Even Apostle Peter had hard time to accept or agree with Paul(Shaul)!
        We all have different views on things and it is same how it was in first century.

        You follow theology of orthodoxy and it’s your choice!

        Jason,believe what you want to believe!
        I found many contradicting things in New Testament and I do question and test everything!

        I follow Torah,Prophets and Jesus and live righteous life and that’s all!
        This is the last comment on your precious website!

        Shabat Shalom!

      • My dear friend, let us lay the NT aside.

        I ask you how are you saved from damnation? How is your sin washed away? You cannot earn your way to heaven. Our heavenly father has sent his son Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel – Jew first then gentile – to create one new man. Jesus your Messiah is calling you into his Kingdom. I pray you look again.

        “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it…“And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced…

        …crucified…

        …and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son…

        They – the Jewish people – will look upon Him pierced and mourn as one mourns for an only son. The one that is rejected, the one whose name is spit at, the one who is cursed is the one who comes to save Israel. Yes, He is coming to save you – for “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

        If Yeshua is the one who fulfilled these prophecies, if He has come and died already, if He was the atonement for your sin, if He’s the one coming to save Israel, and if He’s the one who has already come to save you, do you not want to be saved and embrace your saviour? How can rejecting a Jewish Messiah who taught a Jewish thing in a Jewish way to Jewish people and made non-Jews believe in a Jewish God and read a Jewish book and believe a Jewish book, how can anybody call that “non-Jewish”. “anti-Jewish”. or departing from Judaism? It may be a departure from the Judaism that proclaimed bar Kochba from being the Messiah, but it is not a departure from the Judaism of your fathers of the patriarchs, or of Moses and the Prophets.

        My Jewish friend, return from sin. You made teshuva, you asked the God of your fathers to forgive your sin that Yeshua paid for in His death. In His resurrection He rose to give you eternal life. Yes, He did raise. Try reading The Resurrection of Jesus by Rabbi Pinchas Lapide, Orthodox professor of Hebrew University. Try reading Rabbi David Flusser, Orthodox professor, Hebrew University. From a Jewish perspective the resurrection of Jesus is irrefutable. Yeshua is indeed LORD and Saviour and he is calling you into his Kingdom. You have been led to this website for a reason.

        Thousands of Jewish people are meeting Yeshua. I am no expert on Judaism, so I urge you to speak to a Jewish follower of Yeshua. http://jewsforjesus.org.uk/how-to-know-god/frequently-asked-questions/
        I am praying for you Kamil.

        Shalom
        Jason

        See also – https://www.moriel.org/five-questions/35-questions-for-jewish-people.html parts of which I include above.

      • Jason,

        Omg I am Jewish follower of Yeshua Our Messiah and Savior and God!Is that finally clear for you??

        Are you done?Please stop lecturing me!

        Jason,seriously Good bye.

      • Dear Kamil,

        I apologise if I have misunderstood you. My response was not to lecture but to offer help and simply exchange conversation. However, in all fairness, you did make some bizarre un-christian statements:

        “That’s right I am not Christian because it’s implementation by Roman Catholic Church’s-Gentile and Pagan but simply follower Of Jewish Messiah-Jesus”

        New Testament does not have original copies but only copies and those copies are questionable

        “when you read Gospels all four apostles describes story very different story and Paul (Shaul) contradicting Jesus commandments”

        “The New Testament is creation of Roman emperor and we are still talking about copies of the copies and there is no original manuscripts and copies we have sadly in Greek or Coptic and not in Hebrew”

        It’s a waste of my time to listen gentile churches how they interpret scriptures”

        Such statements naturally convey to both a gentile and messianic Christian that the person making these statements is not a believer in the NT Yeshua (i.e. Jesus deity etc.). Yet you say you are a follower of Yeshua? On what basis I am unsure. However, I leave that between you and God.

        I leave it there and pray that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be your ever present guide,
        Shalom
        Jason

        PS omg? Is that not blasphemy?

    • Hi Tim, the subject is a vast one and there are many variables and much overlap within each model. I would suggest the book “continuity and discontinuity” as a balanced overview of both models.

      Personally I approach scripture in the following way:

      1) identify the genre; poetic, prophetic, parable, narrative, etc.
      2) read the pericope literally – unless otherwise indicated (such as when modified by genre) 3) identify historical setting; author/audience
      4) note grammatical significance
      5) locate verse in overall context.
      6) how the text/topic/concept interrelates throughout scripture (biblical theology)

      These six points inform my interpretation. Hence when I read Jer. 31:31 the promise of a new covenant is clearly made with literal Israel/Judah. I do not see this modified anywhere in the Old or NT.

      In Romans 10:19-21 Paul identifies Israel as a “disobedient and obstinate people” (v. 21). Left there one could argue that Israel was finished and cast off in favour of the Jewish sect of the Nazarenes. However in Romans 11:1 Paul, himself a practicing Jew, challenges that notion by asking the question “I say then, God has not rejected Has people has He? May, it never be!” Paul then explains why the majority of Jews rejected Jesus, how a remnant responded and how the Gentiles have been ingrafted into the olive tree – i.e. Israel.

      So to answer your question. Israel as people group inherit the Abrahamic promises, to be fulfilled upon Messiah’s return – As Paul indicates; “A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in: and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written “The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob, This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins. From the standpoint of the Gospel they [Israel] are enemies for your sake [gentiles], but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved fro the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God [to literal Israel] are irrevocable”(Romans 11:25-29) When read literaly these pericope are self-explanatory and irrefutable.

      Who then was the New Covenant made with? Israel or the Church? To repeat in Jeremiah 31:31 the covenant is made with the whole house of Judah/Israel. However, historically Jesus made the new covenant with a Jewish remnant. These faithful believers represent the house of Israel. Later gentiles were invited into that new covenant and together they form the ekklesia of God – the Church. Thus the first aspect of God’s faithfulness involves the keeping of the remnant, the second involves the eschatological salvation of all Israel. As we read in Romans 11 Paul describes this twofold status of Israel; 1) the remnant 2) all Israel. Thus the New Covenant is made with the house of Israel represented by the remnant to which are added gentiles and finally at the consumption of the age the elect of Israel.

      Concerning John McArthurs position, I would have to read more carefully the details, but it sounds like a standard form of discontinuity model. I would agree that Israel is party to the new covenant, they being the receivers of the promise, and the gentiles are beneficiaries. However, the sequence is: remnant, plus gentiles, finally all Israel.

      However, the danger for all who hold this position is the temptation towards dual covenant theology (which Russell taught) wherein Israel is saved outside of faith in Jesus. This doctrine cannot stand and is in my opinion heretical. Jew and Gentile alike must put their faith in Messiah to be saved. In fact for all Israel to be saved, they must all put faith in Jesus.

      Other helpful books on the subject include:

      “Has the Church Replaced Israel? – A theological evaluation” by Michael J. Vlach
      “Israel and the Church – the Affects of Replacement Theology” by Ronald E. Diprose
      “The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supercessionism” by Calvin Smith

      For those holding a continuity model I respect that view and understand the reasons for that position. As I have said before Israel is a peripheral topic, not salvific. The point of raising it in this article is to highlight how the Watch Tower changes doctrine with impunity.

      Hope my waffle helps – every blessing
      Jason

      • Thanks for your reply. I know it goes beyond the scope of the article, but I’m just trying to better understand the Discontinuity model and it’s difference to the Continuity model and to that of JWs.

        I guess my question should have been a little more specific. From what I understand of JW doctrine, the NC is with “spiritual Israel” and the “other sheep” are beneficiaries, so they get the blessimgs such as forgiveness of sins, without being directly in it.

        From how I understand the Discontinuity model, especially how John MacArthur put it, that is similar in that the NC is only with literal Israel but the gentiles get the benefits such as forgiveness of sins without being literally in it, but it’s beneficiaries. MacArthur quotes the verse about all nations being blessed by Abraham’s seed, as does the WT in support of this. So I think the JW position is that both “spiritual Israel” and the “other sheep” are part of he NC but in different ways, which I think is what MacArthur was saying about Israel and the Church.

        Have I understood correctly? In which case apart from he difference of application vis-a-vis literal/spiritual Israel, what is the difference?

        I also am a little confused about the “grafting in” of the gentiles. Do you believe that in being “grafted in” to the olive tree of Israel, they actually become Jews (and thus into the NC) or is that the Continuity model? I don’t understanc how you can be “grafted in” to Israel without becoming an Israelite, or at least party to Israel’s covenants/promises, which would destroy the distinction between Israel and the Church which the Discontinuity model upholds?

      • Hi Tim,

        Thank you for the clarification. You have raised a very interesting question.

        The Watchtower April 1. 1979 p.31 stated: “The “great crowd” of “other sheep” that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the “little flock” of those yet in that covenant they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant.”

        You comment: I think the JW position is that both “spiritual Israel” and the “other sheep” are part of the NC but in different ways, which I think is what MacArthur was saying about Israel and the Church.

        I see what your saying, but I’m not sure that is correct. The Watch Tower claims the 144,000 are the sole inheritors of the NC. They alone enter into a personal covenant with Jesus. Jesus becomes their mediator while the Great Crowd become only beneficiaries and are not part of the NC.

        The discontinuity model is somewhat different. First a literal interpretation of the OT forces a distinction between Israel and the Church. When I say the Church – I refer to ALL who believe in Jesus as their LORD and Saviour, Jew and Gentile alike. In this sense we could term the Church, spiritual heirs of Abraham.

        “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29) Incidentally this pericope does not dissolve ethnic or sexual differences, Paul’s point is that these differences are no longer a barrier to unity in Christ.

        Unlike the Watch Tower model, Jew and Gentile are here described as ONE in Messiah, and therefore ALL Christians are living right now in the NC. However, the application made to the Church does not cancel a fulfilment of the NC with national Israel. Remember Paul said the majority of Israel remain in unbelief, only a remnant responded and later gentiles by God’s grace also became partakers. All are saved in the same way by faith in Christ and are thus in the NC. MacArthur may call gentiles beneficiaries nevertheless I’m sure he would agree that together they are all in the NC. In contrast Watch Tower theology teaches that the great crowd never are in the NC, but benefit from afar as a secondary class. This is a very different outcome from Christianity wherein all inherit immortality – Jew and Gentile alike. The question is where does national Israel fit in?

        To quote Pannenberg: “The cup that is handed round at the Lord’s Supper gives a share in this covenant. This means the Church [Jew and Gentile together] already share in the NC that will be granted to Israel as a whole when Christ returns as the eschatological redeemer.” (W. Pannenberg. Systematic Theology 1988, 3:473)

        Hence the NC has an already-but-not-yet aspect. Spiritual aspects of the NC made originally to Israel are experienced now by the Church – such as forgiveness of sins, indwelling of the spirit, eternal life etc. Yet the NC awaits a future physical fulfilment upon National Israel. The NC is thus realised in part now (spiritualy) upon the Church and later in its completeness when all Israel is saved and restored to its land at the parousia.

        Concerning the “grafting in of Gentiles” – I had earlier referred to the olive tree as Israel. This was a rather loose statement. More precisely the “olive tree” may well refer to the abrahamic covenant as the issue in Romans 11 was the relationship between Jew and Gentile. Unbelieving Jews were “broken off” while believing gentiles were grated in. Gentiles thus enter a place of blessing. However, Paul warns the gentiles not to be arrogant against the natural branches – i.e. unbelieving Israel, for he (God) will graft them in again. Consequently both Jew and Gentile who believe in Yeshua are together branches of the same tree. In a sense they are all spiritual heirs through faith, while at the same time unity of Jew and Gentile in salvation can and does coexist alongside a unique functional role for national Israel.

        So in summary:

        1) THE HERE & NOW PART: Gentiles through faith in Yeshua enter into the NC – Jew and gentile becoming “one new man” in a spiritual sense (Ephesians 2:15) while at the same time maintaining ethnicity.

        2) THE FUTURE PART: The NC made with the house of Israel (Jer. 31:31) remains to be fulfilled at the eschaton in a literal sense when all Israel will be saved.

        In conclusion, Watch Tower theology teaches that the 144,000 are in the NC whereas the Great Crowd are not. The GC benefit at a distance but are never fully in the NC. In contrast within the discontinuity model gentiles DO enter into the NC alongside a faithful remnant of Israel, which we call the Church – or more precisely the sect of the Nazarenes! Thus Gentiles become beneficiaries of the NC inheriting the spiritual promises now, while national Israel currently bound in unbeleif await revelation and redemption at the parousia. Thus the distinction remains between the Church and Israel.

        I trust this helps?
        God bless
        Jason

        PS. Please note there are many shades of understanding in both continuity and discontinuity models. Much overlap and hybridisation. At the end of the day we will all have to wait and see how it all plays out!

        jw.org references:
        https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/ws20141015/a-kingdom-of-priests/#?insight%5Bsearch_id%5D=74cb1365-cac1-4be5-b202-a69c0d533dca&insight%5Bsearch_result_index%5D=11

  4. Hi Jason, thanks for the reply, but I think further clarification might be necessary.

    I’m aware that MacArthur’s view is different from the JWs’ with regard to the two classes of Christian etc. I guess my query is about semantics.

    I’ll quote MacArthur directly:

    “So what did we learn about the new covenant? God is the author, and it is different. Third thing. The new covenant is with Israel. It is with the Jews. And this is what I meant when I said this morning God has never made a covenant with Gentiles, as far as I can see, never will. The new covenant is not made with the church. It is made with the same people the old covenant was made with. It was made with Israel.

    You say, “Well, what are we doing?” Well, we’re beneficiaries of the old covenant, just like Gentiles could be…were beneficiaries of the new covenant, just like Gentiles could be beneficiaries of the old covenant. But notice, it couldn’t be any clearer. “I will make a new covenant with the church.” Is that what it says? No. “With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.””

    http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1619/the-new-covenant-part-1

    Notice that he says that “the new covenant is not made with the church.” To my mind, that means that you are not a party of the NC, which means that you are not technically IN it…

    …but he says about the Church: “we’re beneficiaries of the new covenant, just like Gentiles could be beneficiaries of the old covenant”. So the Church is “in” the NC as beneficiaries, but not “in” the NC as a legal party, which is only for Israel as they are the ones that the NC was made “with”.

    Although the application is radically different between MacArthur and JWs, I had thought that the semantics were basically the same, except that with JWs the NC is “with” spiritual Israel, and thus they are “in” it as legal parties, but the GC are “in” or “under” it as beneficiaries. The WT article you quoted seems to confirm this.

    Have I misunderstood?

    BTW, whether or not the JW understanding of the GC/other sheep is valid is beside the point, I’m only interested in how the JW view compares with that of the Discontinuity model in terms of the semantics of the legal arrangement of the NC in terms of parties/beneficiaries.

    With regard to my position, as I’ve said before, I don’t like to label my beliefs as JW/Baptist/Evangelical etc. etc. I believe in Jesus Christ as my saviour but I’m interested in different points of view on Biblical matters.

    • Hi Tim,

      As I understand it the 144,000 are in “legal” covenantal relationship with Jesus whereas the GC are not. I understand your point that by extension the GC are beneficiaries nevertheless they remain outside the NC, they are never “in” the covenant.

      MacArthur rightly identifies the NC is made with Israel in a legal sense, and I understand why he applies the term beneficiaries to the Church. With that as a backdrop I can see how you apply the same principle to the 144,000 and GC.

      However, for me the key difference is that in WT theology the GC never enter the NC with Christ, whereas with the discontinuity model the Church does enter the NC, yes as “beneficiaries” but with the same outcome – immortality. Far different from the JW’s.

      Its a bit like saying Britain and New Zealand are both in the commonwealth. But that does not make New Zealand, Britain. Yet together they share the same “covenant” as equals but remain separate entities. So it is with the Church and Israel. Christians live now in the NC by virtue of faith in Christ and finally all Israel will do so at Christ return.

      If I had to define the WT model, then I would say that by replacing literal Israel with the 144,000 they hold a continuity model and then by creating a secondary GC class they employ a hybrid discontinuity model – so I guess its a weird mixture. Either way I understand your point and its a valid one.

      Shalom
      Jason

      • Thanks Jason, some further comments I have…

        MacArthur does indeed go on to say that the gentiles “participate” in the NC in his sermon.

        The way I see it, there are many interpretations within dispensationalism of exactly how to reconcile the church’s relationship with the NC harmonises with Jer. 31 and the NC promises to Israel.

        I’ve read several essays and commentaries that have explained that there have been numerous explanations. Some hold that there are 2 NCs, for example.

        John Darby held that the NC was with Israel but the church got the blessings because of being associated with the mediator of the covenant. He stated in his commentary on Hebrews 8: “We enjoy indeed all the essential privileges of the new covenant, its foundation being laid on God’s part in the blood of Christ, but we do so in spirit, not according to the letter.”

        As you said “MacArthur rightly identifies the NC is made with Israel in a legal sense, and I understand why he applies the term beneficiaries to the Church. With that as a backdrop I can see how you apply the same principle to the 144,000 and GC.” That is exactly right, to me, the “hybrid” understanding of JWs is just another interpretation of the NC.

        I’m interested in your statement “…with the discontinuity model the Church does enter the NC, yes as “beneficiaries” but with the same outcome – immortality. Far different from the JW’s.”. In my research into NC interpretations, I’ve never come across this view expressed about the JW interpretation. Could you elaborate? Do JWs not believe in eternal life for both groups? As I said, I’m not interested in who the 144,000/GC of Revelation are etc. just in the relationship of the NC.

      • Hi Tim,

        Have you ever been a JW?

        What is the purpose of the NC? Whether your adopt the continuity model or discontinuity model, the end product is the same; through faith in Christ the believer enters into the NC resulting in not just “eternal life” but bodily immortality at the consummation of the age. Israel, Jew, gentile will all melt into one as the NC achieves its final goal – the gift of bodily resurrection immortality and life with God eternally. (1 Cor. Chpt. 15)

        JW’s on the other hand teach that resurrection immortality is only for the 144,000 because they alone are IN the NC. That leaves the GC/other sheep living as “perfect humans” on earth. You may assign them the label “beneficiaries” however they never receive the full gift of the NC. Semantically JW’s teach that both groups receive “eternal life” however eternal life in scripture is actually bodily immortality. The GC never receive this, instead they must live a virtuous life in full allegiance to Jehovah. The GC live as “perfect humans” not immortal beings. Thus the GC are condemned to endure an eternal process of trying to please God, even after the millennium no assurance exists. The GC are thus robbed of their NC inheritance. They will never have an assure of ultimate salvation.

        For me such a doctrine confirms that the GC are in WT teaching lesser beings and are never in the NC and therefore can never truly enter “eternal life” – hence they are beneficiaries in a fundamentally different way to that taught in Christian theology.

      • Ah, I see what you are saying Jason. Your explanation of the Discontinuity model has been helpful in clarifying. As I say, I have been looking at different interpretations of the NC and its relationships to believers. I understand better now, thank you.

      • Great! sorry i went around the houses. It is an interesting subject.
        God bless
        Jason

  5. Jason , I realize you know about this but it bears repeating .It seems that the reason why Rutherford changed a long held doctrine ( the Jews returning to Israel) was that he tied it in with a prophetic date he invented — 1925 .

    That date ( 1925) was taught to advertise the resurrection of prominent O.T. men like David and such . This date was claimed to be ” Bible based ” , but it turned out to be yet another false prophesy by W.t. leaders because David and other O.T. men failed to appear on earth.
    ” New light ” ( 1925) became false prophesy . So that doctrine had to be changed .

    Rutherford then also changed his teaching about the Jews .

    The W.t. is a false prophet led organization . Those in the organization can be free to discover God’s new arrangement for gaining His approval and salvation by coming directly to Jesus –Matt 11:28 and asking him for pardon –Mk 2:10 . They will not be disappointed .
    We get to pray for them to take that step .

    • Yes Mike, absolutely, in fact all Rutherford’s new dates play a role in rewriting the zionist position. Having stated that the Patriachs would return, he made not only a false prophecy, but forced his own hand in rewriting who Israel actually was. The easy option, and also the most empowering option for the society was to usurp literal Israel with their own version of Spiritual Israel, viz. 144,000.

      I obtained an original copy of the May 15th 1955 Watchtower. Under the heading “Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses restoration of pure worship 1919-1932″ the writers state:

      “Restoration of genuine worship of the living God in 1919 did not mean gathering throngs of native or natural “orthodox” Jews in a so-called “Holy Land” (Palestine) under the slogan of “Zionism.” (John 4:21-23) Indeed, such a long expected and popularly heralded event the earnest students of the Bible came to understand by 1932 as being not Jehovah’s way but only the way of self-serving men subtly stirred into action for creatures purposes and benefits. By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah’s Witnesses came to see that such a “back to Palestine” movement was by the spirit of Jehovah’s arch foe, Satan. Attainment of correct understanding… was due to God’s real restoration of his spiritual Israel, which began in 1919”

      What self-inditement. Basically they are saying that Russell was a Zionist because he was a “self-serving men subtly stirred into action for creatures purposes and benefits”. Rutherford too was such a man until his epiphany. What nonsense. We all know that the changes came in order to rescue the organisation and not by the mouth of God, but through the machinations and inventions of Rutherford.

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