A reader contacted me and asked:
On your website you state:
“Instead, the Scriptures are clear in teaching that Christ will physically come to the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 3:21, etc.), separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33), and say to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34). Matthew 25 does not speak of two classes of believers; it speaks of two classes of persons. These two classes consist of sheep and goats. All of the sheep are believers who will all inherit the kingdom. Therefore, there is only one class of believers who will rule with Christ on the earth (Revelation 5:10).”
I don’t necessarily disagree with you however I do have one question. If all the sheep are believers who will rule with Christ on earth, who will they rule over? It seems that there will only be Kings and no subjects.
Let me state from the outset that this is a question that even the Watchtower doesn’t know the answer to. But leaving that aside, I think there are several possible answers to this question.
First, there is no denying that there will be some form of kingship where ruling and reigning will take place (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6). What we then have to determine is what the nature of that rulership is. And without explicit Scriptural support, we cannot assume that the subjects of this rulership includes Christians.
“‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;” (Revelation 2:26–27, cf: Ps. 2:6-7)
Regardless of your view on the millennium, it seems undeniable that there is some sort of rulership that takes place over non-Christians. The Watchtower takes this as referring to the anointed class sharing with Jesus the destruction of rebellious nations at Armageddon. Even if this were the only basis for rulership mentioned in Scripture, it would provide a sufficient basis to discredit the Watchtower’s insistence that rulership must take place over other Christians.
“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
“so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” (Romans 6:11–12)
These texts clearly show that reigning doesn’t necessarily indicate that human subjects are involved. Yet, it shows explicit support of what rulership entails.
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3)
“and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29–30, cf: Lk. 13:28, Mt. 8:11)
Whether these passages are referring to the judgement of non-Christians and/or Jews, they don’t necessitate a rulership of Christians over other Christians.
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Interestingly, this word used for “rule” (רָדָה radah) is also used in Psalm 110:2 of Christ: “YHWH will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” While space will not allow for a full semantic discussion of the various uses of רָדָה and how it might relate to the “ruling” and “reigning” in the Christian Scriptures, we can at least suggest that the rulership mentioned Genesis 1:28 doesn’t necessitate a ruling over other humans.
To summarize, we have listed several possibilities as to the nature of the kingship or rulership in which all Christians will have when Christ returns. These include:
- Authority over non-Christians
- Reigning over sin and death
- Judgement over non-Christians and/or Jews
- Ruling over the earth (land, sea, animals, etc.)
Yet, the Watchtower insists that this kingship must by necessity include Christians as subjects. To my knowledge, there is no Scriptural support for this position. It appears to be something that is assumed due to what they think it means to be a king. But it is important that we let Scripture determine the meaning of words rather than our assumptions.