IS THIS REVELATION?
First from the Society’s book, Revelation the Grand Climax, pp.288-290.
It relates to their explanation of Revelation 20:4, 5, which in the NASB reads,
“Then I saw thrones, and theysaton them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”
Now this would appear to be fairly straightforward in its general meaning.
1. There were those who were reigning with Christ who had been given the place of judgement – this is one group.
2. Then there were those who had come out triumphant from the tribulation – a second group.
3. Then there were the rest of the dead – a third group.
However, this gives Jehovah’s Witnesses a problem as they say there are only two groups.
In the NWT these verses read,
“And I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.”
Even here, it appears there are three groups and so just how does the Society make 3 into 2?
One of the important things concerning Biblical exposition is that you are consistent. It is rather like putting a message into secret code; if you represent ‘a’ with ‘z’ every time you write it, the code can be deciphered. However, if you simply choose a random letter each time it cannot be deciphered. The Watchtower Society seems to be the same when it comes to their Biblical teaching!
I was interested in how they explained these verses and found it quite enlightening. I reprint part of their explanation below and seek to show that this is not correct Biblical exposition because of the random choosing of various explanations.
First we are told that the ones sitting on the throne,
“… are “holy ones” that Daniel described as ruling in the Kingdom… (Daniel 7:13, 14, 18). They are the same as the 24 elders… (Revelation 4:4)” p.288.
So it appears at first that the Society agrees that there are 24 thrones, as we read in Revelation 4:4, around the throne of Jehovah. Indeed, it is surely what John wants us to understand the way he says, “and I saw thrones and there were those that sat on them.” He is surely referring to a subject that he has already introduced as he gives no other indication of what is happening. Apart from this, the only other times, twice in fact, in Revelation, that plural ‘thrones’ are mentioned, they are restricted to the 24 elders.
However, the Watchtower Society are not content with 24, even though that is the number given in Scripture, they want more. They add, Paul, the faithful Corinthian Christians and those who conquered in Laodicea – they give no reason why they leave out the rest of the New Testament Churches especially the Ephesians who were, “seated with Christ in the heavenly places”!
The summation of all this is found on p.289 where we read,
“Thrones – 144,000 of them – are prepared for these anointed conquerors who are ‘bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 14:1, 4)”
Where in Revelation are 144,000 associated with thrones? Nowhere directly, in the whole of the book, but there is an interesting verse in Revelation 14:3 which reads,
“… they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand.”
Here they sing the song before the throne and the elders, not sitting on the thrones around Jehovah’s throne. Terminology in Revelation appears to be very clear, unless you use ‘pick-and-mix’ theology.
How, though, do they overcome the fact that there is another group, joined in the NASB as in the Greek, with an ‘and,’ to show that they are two groups joined together? How? The NWT simply changes the ‘and’ to ‘yes’!
The Greek word is kái which Greek scholar, Strong, defines as,
“Apparently a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too…”
There isn’t a ‘yes’ in sight and to translate it thus is trying to hide the fact that they are two distinctive groups. Thus, in the Society’s book, we read that the second group were part of the first, something Scripture clearly does not say.
“Among those kings, then, are the anointed Christian martyrs who earlier, at the opening of the fifth seal, asked Jehovah how much longer he would wait to avenge their blood. At that time, they were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer…” – p. 289
Another indication of this random theology comes in the next paragraph of the book which says,
“Were all these 144,000 royal judges physically “executed with the ax”? Likely, relatively few of them were in a literal sense. This expression, though, doubtless is intended to embrace all those anointed Christians who endure martyrdom in one way or another…”
I do not have a problem with that but it should be pointed out to a Jehovah’s Witness, who in future says to you that a specific verse or part of a verse, “must be taken literally”.
However, what of the third distinct group? We read on p.290,
“Whom though, will these kings judge if, as the apostle John here inserts, ‘(the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended)’? (Revelation 20:5a)”
A vital question to answer because this one group, as the Watchtower Society would now have us accept, are rulers on the thrones in heaven – who then are the ruling?
A classic Watchtower answer begins,
“Again, the expression ‘come to life’ has to be understood according to context. This expression can have varying meanings in varying circumstances. For example, Paul said of his anointed fellow Christians: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) Yes, spirit-anointed Christians were “made alive,” even in the first century, being declared righteous on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.-Romans 3:23, 24.”
This again is misleading, as far as Biblical exegesis is concerned. Here in Revelation we have the Greek word anazao which literally means “to recover life” but in Ephesians 2:1, when describing the spiritual condition of being made alive, we do not have the same word. In fact, there is no word in the Greek at all. The ‘coming alive’ is derived from the fact that you were dead and now you live. The other Scripture they quote in Romans has nothing to do with being made alive at all but about being justified.
They compound this error by further stating,
“Similarly, pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah were declared righteous as to friendship with God; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were spoken of as “living” even though they were physically dead. (Matthew 22:31, 32; James 2:2 1, 23) However, they and all others who are resurrected, as well as the great crowd of faithful other sheep who survive Armageddon…”
This is where two negatives make a positive. We, the Society, say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead even though the Bible says they are living. But because the Bible describes someone as living who is dead this shows that what we say about these ones not coming to life is true!
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were alive in the Kingdom of Heaven, they already were resurrected and so living does mean living!
The final twist is given with a statement often found in the Watchtower which basically says, this is what is written but this is what it really means.
“By the end of that Day, “the rest of the dead” will have “come to life” in the sense that they will be perfect humans. As we shall see, they must then pass a final test, but they will face that test as perfected humans. When they pass the test, God will declare them worthy of living forever, righteous in the fullest sense.”
But wait a minute, that isn’t what we set out to look at? Coming to life does not equate with being perfect humans who have passed their exams! Coming to life here means recovering life. In other words they were alive, then dead and they did not recover that life again until the thousand years had ended.
Watchtower random, ‘pick-and-mix’ theology does not stand the test of Biblical exegesis. The faithful Jehovah’s Witness might accept it but only because they will not check it out without Watchtower theology and understanding that they have been given since the day they entered the Society.