The relevance of the latter might not seem evident to you at first, so let me explain by proposing a fictitious, but all-too-likely scenario.
A man approaches a Witness on the street corner doing the cart work. He says, “I’m an atheist. I believe that when you die, that’s all she wrote. End of story. What do you believe happens when I die?"
The Witness eagerly replies to this by saying, “As an atheist, you don’t believe in God. Nevertheless, God believes in you, and he wants to give you the opportunity to know him and be saved. The Bible says there are two resurrections, one of the righteous and another of the unrighteous. So, if you were to die tomorrow, you’d be resurrected under the Messianic Kingdom of Jesus Christ.” The atheist says, “So, you’re saying that if I die, I’d come back to life and live forever?” The Witness replies, “Not exactly. You’d still be imperfect as we all are. So you’d have to work toward perfection, but if you did, by the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ, you’d would be perfect, without sin.” The atheist replies, “Hmm, so what about you? I guess you believe you go to heaven when you die, right?” The Witness smiles reassuringly, “No, not at all. Only a small number go to heaven. They get immortal life upon their resurrection. But there is also a resurrection to life on earth, and I hope to be part of that. My salvation depends on my support for Jesus’ brothers, anointed Christians, which is why I’m out here now preaching the Good News. But I do hope to live forever on earth under the Kingdom rule.” The atheist asks, “So, when you’re resurrected, you’re perfect right? You expect to live forever?” “Not exactly. I’ll still be imperfect; still a sinner. But I will have the opportunity to work toward perfection by the end of the thousand years.” The atheist chuckles and says, “That doesn’t sound like much of a sales pitch.” “What do you mean?” asks the Witness, puzzled. “Well, if I end up with exactly the same thing as you, even though I don’t believe in God, why should I join your religion?” The Witness nods, “Ah, I see your point. But there’s one thing you’re overlooking. The Great Tribulation is coming, followed by Armageddon. Only those who actively support Christ’s brothers, the anointed, will survive. The rest will die with no hope of a resurrection.” “Oh well then, I’ll just wait until the last minute, when this “Great Tribulation” of yours comes, and I’ll repent. Wasn’t there a guy who died beside Jesus who repented at the last minute and was forgiven?” The Witness shakes his head sagely, “Yes, but that was then. Different rules apply for the Great Tribulation. There will be no chance of repentance then.”
What do you think of our little scenario? Everything I’ve had our Witness say in this dialogue is completely accurate and in line with the teachings found in the publications of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every word he spoke is based on the belief that there are two classes of Christian. An anointed class comprising 144,000 individuals, and an Other Sheep class comprising millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are not spirit anointed. We believe there will be three resurrections, two of the righteous and one of the unrighteous. We teach that the first resurrection of the righteous is of the anointed to immortal life in the heavens; then the second resurrection of the righteous is to imperfect life on earth; then after that, the third resurrection will be of the unrighteous, also to imperfect life on earth. So, that means that the Good News we are preaching boils down to: How to survive Armageddon! This presupposes that everyone but Witnesses will die at Armageddon and will not be resurrected. This is the Good News of the Kingdom that we preach in fulfillment—we believe—of Matthew 24:14 “…this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Evidence of this can be seen by examining the opening pages of the key teaching aid used in the door-to-door ministry: What Does the Bible Really Teach. Appealing images greet the reader by depicting the hope that humans will be restored to health, and youth, and live eternally in a peaceful earth, free of war and violence.
To clarify my position, I do believe that the Bible teaches that the earth will eventually be filled with billions of perfected humans living in eternal youth. That isn’t being disputed here. Rather, the question being considered pertains to whether that is the message of the Good News that Christ wants us to preach? Paul told the Ephesians, “But you also hoped in him after you heard the word of truth, the Good News about your salvation.” (Ephesians 1:13)
As Christians, our hope comes after hearing “the word of truth” concerning the Good News of our salvation. Not the salvation of the World, but our salvation. Later in Ephesians, Paul said there was one hope. (Ephesians 4:4) He did not consider the resurrection of the unrighteous to be a hope that should be preached. He was speaking only of the hope for Christians. So, if there is only one hope, why does the Organization teach that there are two?
They do this because of deductive reasoning based on a premise they have arrived at that comes from their interpretation of John 10:16, which says: “And I have Other Sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”
Witnesses believe that “this fold” or flock corresponds to the Israel of God, made up of only 144,000 anointed Christians, whereas the Other Sheep correspond to a group of non-anointed Christians that would only appear in the last days. However, there is nothing here in John 10:16 to indicate exactly what Jesus meant. We do not want to base our entire salvation hope on assumptions stemming from a single ambiguous verse. What if our assumptions are wrong? Then, every conclusion we base on those assumptions will be wrong. Our entire salvation hope would become futile. And if we are preaching a false salvation hope, well…what a waste to time and energy—to say the least!
Surely if the Other Sheep doctrine is critical to understanding the Good News of our salvation, we would expect to find clarification in the Bible as to the identity of this group. Let’s have a look:
One of the best ways to figure out what a term means in the Bible is to do a search on that term to find out every other place it occurs, and how it's used. So we'll do that with other sheep.
Using the Watchtower Library, we find that we have five occurrences in the Bible. We'll discount the outline because that's not really part of the Bible text as well as the Bible words index because they're not part of the text. That leaves one occurrence in John for the term or phrase other sheep and that is the very verse under question John 10:16. So that isn't very helpful.
Another phrase that comes up often is “great crowd of other sheep” that doesn't occur at all in the Bible, but it does occur two-hundred and fifty-six times in the watchtower. So the watchtower links the great crowd with the other sheep. But why? There is nothing in the Bible that directly links these two groups. So where did they get it from? Where do they get the other sheep doctrine from?
Well, another way to find out would be to go to the reference works and here we have other sheep and there are two Watchtower publication indexes. The most recent covers the last thirty years. We'll go to that. We will look for the discussion topic because any major doctrine is covered by a discussion topic which points there various articles in magazines and books where the topic is fully discussed, fully exposed and explained. But we don't find that under other sheep and the latest index there is no discussion topic.
So let's go back to the 1930 to 1985 index. Now one would expect since the doctrine was first revealed to Jehovah's witnesses in 1934 that this would contain that reference, we'd be able to find the actual article in which Rutherford first expounded the doctrine of the other sheep. When we go to the discussion topic, we find no such reference. Nothing to 1934-1935. In fact the earliest is 1980. But still if we have three references and they do fully explain it using scriptures that's all we need. So let's go to the most recent one, that is Watchtower 84, 2/15, 15-20, and If you read this (and I would recommend you read all three, take your time) you will find that they do not contain any proof; what they contain are assertions. To give you one example here in paragraph four: “Since those ‘other sheep’ are not of this fold, there were not to be included among the Israel of God, the members of which have a spiritual or heavenly inheritance.“
How do we know that? How do we know that this fold is the Israel of God and how do we know that the other sheep are not included in the Israel of God? We have no basis, no scriptures provided here to support that; it's simply an assertion that is made and they expect us to accept it as gospel. Some suggest that this fold or flock refers to the Jews who would become Christians, whereas the Other Sheep refers to the Gentiles, people of the nations, who would later come into the Christian congregation and join the Jewish Christians—two flocks becoming one.
To accept either belief without any scriptural evidence is to engage in eisegesis: imposing our own view onto Scripture. On the other hand, an exegetical study will motivate us to look elsewhere in the Bible to find out the most likely explanation for Jesus’ words. So, let’s do that now. Since we couldn’t find anything using the phrase “Other Sheep”, let’s try looking for single words like “flock” and “sheep” as they relate to Jesus, always using the Watchtower Library.
So since Jesus is talking about sheep and sheep folds or flocks, let's see what he has to say about them in other places. So we'll enter sheep and just start a word search. We're just going to go into the latest version of the New World Translation will start in Matthew because we are looking for Jesus words.
Matthew 9:36: "On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them because they were skimmed and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd". So the crowds the Jews non-believers were like sheep without a shepherd.
In Matthew 10:6, He's telling his twelve disciples or apostles: “Do not enter into a samaritan city, but instead go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". (so he doesn't want them to go off into the road of the nation's, that would be the Gentiles or sometimes they're just referred to collectively as the Greeks)
Matthew 15:24: "He answered I was not sent to anyone except to the lost sheep of the house of israel". This is where the Phoenician woman is asking him to to help her child and he's saying "I'm sorry. I can't help you because you're not a Jew, I'm only sent to Jews", but she wins him over and he does cure her son. So it seems evident that the only flock that Jesus refers to repeatedly is the flock of Israel, the lost sheep or lost sheep fold of the house of Israel.
Can we find corroboration for that? Let's go back to John 10:16.
It always helps to read the context, so here when we read the context of this we find who is he speaking to. He's speaking to his disciples because the idea that this fold here refers to the Israel of God would mean that he's talking to the anointed and of course there are no anointed yet, the holy spirit had not yet been poured out, there was therefore no Israel of God at this point yet. He is using the adjective this to indicate something which is current in front of him. So what was in front of him? Was there a sheepfold in front of him that he could use the word this?
Well if you look at verse 19 and read from 19 to 21, it says: "a division again resulted among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying: 'He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why do you listen to him?' Others said: 'These are not the sayings of a demonized man. A demon cannot open blind people’s eyes, can it?'". So here we have clear indication that these are not his disciples, matter of fact that some of them are speaking against him and accusing him of being demonized and yet, he is referring to them as this fold. Does that fit? Because you have this fold and you have other sheep and they are brought together from two flocks into one under one shepherd.
Well, the way we can find that out is by looking for Jew and Greek, because Jew refers to the Jewish the Jews obviously, and Greek to all the nations, all the non-jews. It's a term they use frequently then and if we go to Roman's to begin with, notice the way it's phrased: "it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek". (Romans 1:16) So, we have other sheep that are not of this fold, that would be the first fold, and these other sheep are coming afterwards.
The same phrase, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, is repeated in verse 10 of chapter 2 of Romans. Romans 10:12 talks about no distinction between the Jew and the Greek because the two flocks had become one flock under one shepherd, indicating that there was no longer a distinction.
Galatians 3:28 reads: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus." We have always the same idea that they're all one because they are one flock.
Finally we have Colossians 3:11 who states: "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, or freeman; but Christ is all things and in all."
So every text we've read talks about two groups becoming one under a single Shepherd Christ. Christ is all things and in all. It becomes pretty clear that the most logical conclusion that fits with what the Bible says is that the other sheep are the Gentiles and this fold are the Jews. But you might say "well, why didn't he just say that?". We have to remember he was speaking to Jews and the Jews hated the Gentiles, particularly the Romans. A Jew would not eat with one, he would not fellowship with one: he had minimal connection with a Gentile. To suggest that Jews and Gentiles were going to co-mingle under one shepherd as a single flock would have probably resulted in them grabbing stones to stone him to death. So he had used a coded language that his disciples were understand when the time came. Even his disciples didn't understand this new truth and it took them a few years before they could grapple with it. So Jesus was mindful of the needs of his flock.
It would appear from what we’ve just reviewed that the most likely scenario is that Jesus was talking about the Jews and the Gentiles becoming one flock as Christians. There seems to be no evidence that he was speaking about a group that would appear in the last days. However, let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions. The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been teaching this doctrine since the mid-1930s—over eighty years. Perhaps they have found some evidence that has eluded us. To be fair, let’s try a side-by-side comparison of what the Bible teaches is the hope for Christians versus what the Organization teaches is the hope for the Other Sheep. It would also be good to read the context of every Scripture and Watchtower publication reference to make sure that I am not cherry-picking proof texts. As the Bible says, ‘make sure of all things, and then hold fast to what is fine.’ (1 Th 5:21) That implies rejecting what is not fine.
I should also state that I will not be using the term “anointed Christian” as a means to differentiate between an anointed Christian and a non-anointed one, since the Bible never speaks of non-anointed Christians. The word “Christian” in Greek as it appears in Acts 11:26 is derived from Christos which means “anointed one.” So, “non-anointed Christian” is a contradiction in terms, while “anointed Christian” is a tautology—like saying an “anointed anointed one”. So, for purposes of this comparison, I’ll differentiate between the two groups by calling the first, “Christians”, and the second, “Other Sheep”, even though the Organization thinks of them both as Christians.
In the list above you will likely have noticed that while every statement regarding the hope for Christians was backed up by Scripture, every teaching of the Organization about the Other Sheep is only backed up by the publications. To put it another way, we are comparing the teachings of God with the doctrines of men. Don’t you think that if there were even one Bible verse declaring the Other Sheep as friends of God, or restricting them from partaking of the emblems, that the publications would have been all over it in a New York minute?
If you think back to our little illustration at the beginning, you will discern that there is no difference between what Witnesses believe is the earthly resurrection of the righteous and that of the unrighteous. The resurrection of the unrighteous is not a hope we preach, but it is an eventuality. It will happen whether it is hoped for or not. What atheist dies hoping to be resurrected by a God he doesn’t believe in? Thus, Paul did not go preaching, “Don’t worry if you want to eat, drink and be merry, fornicate, lie, even murder, because you have the hope of the resurrection of the unrighteous.”
The teaching of the Other Sheep hope conflicts with what Jesus taught us. He sent us forth to preach a real hope for salvation—salvation in this life, not a chance for salvation in the next.
Now, I know Witnesses will come forward and say, “You are not being honest. We are preaching to save billions of people from eternal death at Armageddon.” A noble gesture, to be sure, but alas, a futile one.
First of all, what about the hundreds of millions of people that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not preaching to in all of the Arab countries, as well as in places like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh? Is Jehovah the kind of God who is partial? The kind of God who will not give all people the same equal opportunity for salvation? Does God say: “I’m sorry if you’re some little 13-year-old bride sold into virtual slavery with no chance of ever getting your hands on a precious issue of The Watchtower.” Or, “I regret that you’re an infant who just happened to be born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, to the wrong parents. Too bad. So sad. But it’s eternal destruction for you!". “God is love,” declares John; but that is not the God Witnesses preach about. They accept that some may lose out on life through community responsibility.
But wait, does the Bible really say that everyone dies at Armageddon? Does it say that those who fight against the Christ and do die will never be resurrected? Because if it doesn’t say it, we can’t preach it—not if we don’t want to suffer the repercussions of preaching falsehoods.
Revelation 16:14 says that the “kings of the…earth are gathered…to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” Daniel 2:44 says that the Kingdom of God will crush all other Kingdoms. When one country invades another, its purpose is not to kill all the people in that country, but rather to eliminate all opposition to its rule. It will remove the rulers, the governing institutions, the military powers, and anyone who fights against it; then, it will rule over the people. Why would we think the kingdom of God will do anything different? More importantly, where does the Bible say that Jesus is going to destroy everybody at Armageddon except for a tiny group of Other Sheep? Where did we get the doctrine of the Other Sheep from in the first place?
It started in 1934 in the August 1 and August 15 issues of The Watchtower. The two-part article was titled, “His Kindness”. The new doctrine was (and still is) completely and exclusively based on several antitypical applications not found in Scripture. The story of Jehu and Jonadab is given an antitypical application to our day. Jehu represents the anointed and Jonadab, the Other Sheep. Jehu’s chariot is the Organization. There was also an odd application made using the crossing of the Jordan by the priests carrying the Ark. However, the key to everything was the application made using the six Israelite cities of refuge. The Other Sheep are considered as the antitypical manslayer, blood guilty for their support of the First World War. The avenger of blood is Jesus Christ. The cities of refuge represent the modern-day Organization to which the manslayer, the Other Sheep, must flee to be saved. They can only leave the city of refuge when the high priest dies, and the antitypical high priest are the anointed Christians who die when they are taken to heaven before Armageddon.
In a video, Governing Body member, David Splane, tells us that we no longer accept antitypical dramas that are not applied explicitly in Scripture. But to add weight to that, there is a box on page 10 of the November 2017 Study Edition of The Watchtower that explains: “Because the Scriptures are silent regarding any antitypical significance of the cities of refuge, this article and the next one emphasize instead the lessons Christians can learn from this arrangement.”
So, now we have is a doctrine with no foundation. It never had any foundation in the Bible, but now it has no foundation even within the framework of the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We have disavowed the antitypical application upon which it is based, while replacing that with nothing other than bald-faced and baseless assertions. Essentially, were saying, “It is what it is, because we say so.”
Where did the idea come from in the first place? I have studied the aforementioned two articles which were used to introduce—or should I say, “reveal”—the Other Sheep doctrine to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We should be mindful of the year. It was 1934. Two years earlier, the editorial committee which controlled what was published, had been dissolved.
So now J. F. Rutherford had complete control over what was published. There was also the issue of the doctrine of the 144,000 that stipulated that that number of anointed was literal. That could have been reversed easily enough. After all, that number is the sum of 12 numbers of 12,000 each, as recorded in Revelation 7:4-8. Those are viewed as symbolic numbers drawn from symbolic tribes of Israel. So it could be readily argued that twelve symbolic numbers would not produce a literal sum. However, Rutherford chose a different route. Why? We can only guess, but we do have this fact to consider:
In the book Preservation, he made a radical suggestion. Since Rutherford now taught that Jesus was enthroned in heaven in 1914, he deduced that the holy spirit was no longer needed to communicate revealed truth, but that now Angels were being used. From page 202, 203 of Preservation we have: “If the holy spirit were still operating or performing the office of advocate and helper there would be no necessity for Christ’s employing his holy angels in the work mentioned in the foregoing text. Furthermore, since Christ Jesus is the Head or Husband to his church when he appears at the temple of Jehovah for judgment, and gathers his own to himself, there would be no necessity for a substitute for Christ Jesus, such as the holy spirit; therefore the office of the holy spirit as an advocate, comforter and helper would cease. The angels of Christ Jesus forming his retinue of servants at the temple, invisible indeed to man, are given charge over members of the temple company yet on the earth.” As a consequence of this logic, we now have a doctrine that is the basis for the worldwide preaching of the Good News effected by Jehovah’s Witnesses that was “revealed” at a time when Witnesses were told that the holy spirit was no longer being used. This revelation therefore came via the angels.
This has some very serious consequences. Just how serious? Consider the warning Paul gives us: “…there are certain ones who are causing you trouble and wanting to distort the Good News about the Christ. However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as Good News something beyond the Good News we declared to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, I now say again, Whoever is declaring to you as Good News something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:7-9) Under inspiration, Paul tells us that there will be no change to the Good News ever. It is what it is. There will be no one who can claim inspiration such that he could change the message of the Good News. Even an angel from heaven cannot do this. Rutherford, believing that angels were now communicating with him as the Editor-in-Chief for all the Society’s publications and teachings, introduced a doctrine that has no support in Scripture, basing it completely on antitypical applications which have now been disavowed by the very Organization that continues to teach this doctrine.
What then can we conclude is the true source of this doctrine that causes millions of Christians to reject the saving power of Christ’s body and blood? “So Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.’” (John 6:53) This doctrine perverts and distorts the true message of the Good News. Paul said, “…there are certain ones who are causing you trouble and wanting to distort the Good News about the Christ.” A distortion is not the same as a replacement. The Organization has not replaced the Good News, but it has distorted it. Jesus came to make way for the gathering of the chosen ones. These were called by God to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the founding of the world. (Matthew 25:34) His message had nothing to do with how to survive Armageddon. Instead, he was setting up an administration by which the rest of the world could be saved under Kingdom rule. “It is according to his good pleasure that he himself purposed for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, to gather all things together in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) The message that the apostles preached was an invitation to become a child of God. John 1:12 says that ‘all who put faith in the name of Jesus receive the authority to become children of God.’ Romans 8:21 says that creation—all humanity cast out of the family of God — “will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
So, the Good News we should be preaching is: “Come join us to become one of the adopted children of God, to rule with Christ in the Kingdom of the heavens.” Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching: “It’s too late for that. The hope you have now is to become a subject of the kingdom; so do not partake of the wine and the bread; do not consider yourself a child of God; do not think Jesus mediates for you. That time has passed.” Not only is the doctrine of the Other Sheep a false doctrine, but it has caused Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach a false Good News. And according to Paul, anyone who does that is damned by God.
When I have discussed these things with friends, I have experienced a surprising amount of resistance. They don’t want to partake of the emblems, because they have been conditioned to think of themselves as unworthy. Further, we have been taught that the anointed go to heaven to rule from there, and that thought holds little appeal for most of us. What is heaven like? We don’t know. But we do know life on earth and the joys of being human. Fair enough. To be honest, I don’t want to live in heaven either. I like being human. However, I still partake because Jesus told me too. End of story. I have to obey my Lord.
That being said, I have some interesting news. This whole thing about going to heaven and ruling from there may not be as we suppose. Do the anointed really go to heaven, or do they rule on earth? I would like to share my research on this with you, and I think it will allay your concerns and fears. With that in view, a future article will deal with these issues. For now, just let me leave you with this assurance from the one who cannot lie: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
If a Christian, and especially a Jehovah's Witness, is asked to provide proof of the existence of God, it is very likely that he will quote verse four of the third chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, "every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God".
The reasoning may be right, nothing came from nothing but everything on earth is due to the will of a designer, it is still good to note that Paul was not trying to argue about the existence of a Creator. He spoke to his Hebrew Christian companions who certainly did not question the fact that the universe was ruled by a powerful being who is behind everything. Moreover, in antiquity the problem was certainly not the non-belief in God but rather the opposite: people tended to believe in a multitude of gods. Furthermore, Paul, on one occasion, noticed that an altar dedicated to an unknown god had been made, certainly for fear of forgetting to revere a deity.