Treasures from God’s Word: Jehovah’s Administration and it’s Work
This “sacred secret” involves a government, the Messianic Kingdom of God. “The things in the heavens,” to which Paul refers, are the prospective heirs of that heavenly Kingdom with Christ. “The things on the earth” will be its earthly subjects. Jesus pointed out to his disciples that the sacred secret had to do with the Kingdom when he said to them: “To you the sacred secret of the kingdom of God has been given.”—Mr 4:11. (it-2 837 ¶4)
They are speaking of Ephesians 1:9-11. There is nothing in Ephesians 1 that speaks of a ruling class of anointed JW’s in heaven over earthly subjects. The Watchtower is just making this up. There is no reason whatsoever to apply this passage to anyone other than all true Christians. Yet, the Watchtower would exclude this as applying to most Christians.
What does this “sacred secret” (NWT) or “mystery” (NASB) entail? The Apostle Paul elaborates further on this later on in Ephesians 3:4-6:
By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
While you can certainly tie the “Messianic Kingdom” into this, the focus is more on the expansion of the kingdom to include Gentiles.
Moses told the Israelites: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deut. 6:4) Jehovah’s actions and purpose are harmonious. Thus, “at the full limit of the appointed times,” God put into operation “an administration”—that is, an arrangement for unifying all his intelligent creatures. (Read Ephesians 1:8-10.) This administration will carry out its objective in two stages. The first stage prepares the congregation of anointed ones for life in heaven under Jesus Christ as their spiritual Head. This stage began at Pentecost 33 C.E. when Jehovah started to gather those who would rule with Christ in heaven. (Acts 2:1-4) Since the anointed have been declared righteous for life on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, they readily acknowledge that they have been adopted as “God’s children.”—Rom. 3:23, 24; 5:1; 8:15-17.
The second stage prepares those who will dwell in Paradise on earth under Christ’s Messianic Kingdom. The “great crowd” make up the initial part of this group. (Rev. 7:9, 13-17; 21:1-5) During the Thousand Year Reign, they will be joined by billions of resurrected ones. (Rev. 20:12, 13) Imagine how the resurrection will further demonstrate our unity! At the end of the thousand years, the “things on the earth” will be subjected to a final test. Those proving faithful will be adopted as earthly “children of God.”—Rom. 8:21; Rev. 20:7, 8. (w127/15 27-28 ¶3-4)
The Watchtower has decided to create “two stages” that consists of a “life in heaven under Jesus Christ” for 144,000 anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses and then another stage for “those who will dwell in Paradise on earth.” Yet, you will not find anything like this described in Ephesians 1 (or anywhere in Scripture). Acts 2 is raised to describe the beginning of stage 1. But this only speaks of the filling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. There is nothing in the text which speaks of them as a ruling class in heaven.
In relation to the “second stage,” we need to add some clarification to the “billions of resurrected ones.” Make no mistake; the Watchtower means here to include non-Christians/non-JW’s in these billions. While the Watchtower can’t tell us exactly who the unrighteous billions are; they aren’t JW’s. One thing is clear: there is a “final test” for all. You must prove faithful. While it could be argued that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a truly “works salvation” religion in this life, it is a works salvation religion in the next (i.e. during the thousand years).
If we’re sticking with the book of Revelation, John speaks of a different means of salvation:
These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat. (Revelation 7:14-16)
In other words, it is not their “proving faithful” that placed them in this position; it is only by the blood of the Lamb. After all, “There is none who does good, there is not even one.” (Romans 3:12)
Treasures from God’s Word: Digging for Spiritual Gems
The Greek term rendered “to know” means to know “practically, through experience.” When we show love the way Jesus did—unselfishly giving of ourselves in behalf of others, compassionately responding to their needs, forgiving them from our hearts—then we can genuinely appreciate his feelings. In this way, by experience we come “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge.” And let us never forget that the more we become like Christ, the closer we will draw to the one whom Jesus perfectly imitated, our loving God, Jehovah. (cl 299 ¶21)
They are speaking here of Ephesians 3:19:
to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
The Greek word in question is γινωσκω (ginōskō). BDAG defines it as follows: “To arrive at a knowledge of someone, know, know about, make acquaintance of.” While this is the primary definition, the secondary definition as applied to Ephesians 3:19 is, “to grasp the significance or meaning, understand, comprehend.” What the Watchtower explains above is fine as far as it goes. But what interests me is how they have translated γινωσκω (ginōskō) in other contexts.
This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3, NWT)
The 1984 NWT expresses γινωσκω (ginōskō) differently:
This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.
If we go back to BDAG, they apply the secondary definition as “personal” towards God and Jesus Christ and relates it specifically to John 17:3. In other words, this isn’t so much an experiential knowing (as in “knowing the love of Christ”) as it is personally knowing someone. The Watchtower apparently noticed this, which is why they updated their translation and provided this study note:
their coming to know you: Or “their taking in knowledge of you; their continuing to know you.” The Greek verb gi·noʹsko basically means “to know,” and here the verb is used in the present tense to express continuous action. It may denote a process of “taking in knowledge about someone; getting to know someone; becoming better acquainted with someone.” It may also include the thought of making an ongoing effort to get better acquainted with someone who is already known. In this context, it refers to a deepening personal relationship with God brought about by ever-increasing knowledge of God and Christ and a growing trust in them. Clearly, this necessitates more than knowing who a person is or knowing his name. It would also involve knowing what that person likes and dislikes and knowing his values and standards.—1Jo 2:3; 4:8.
My impression is that the Watchtower is simply avoiding the main implication of this: praying to Jesus Christ. Any faithful Jehovah’s Witness knows that it is forbidden to pray directly to Jesus Christ. Rather, they are supposed to pray to Jehovah directly “in Jesus’ name.”
However, John 17:3 is crystal clear in that whatever “knowing” is applied to God must likewise be applied to Jesus Christ. Knowing both God and Jesus are necessary for eternal life. The Watchtower takes it a step further and speaks of a “deepening personal relationship with God.” But they refuse to speak of a “deepening personal relationship” with Christ.