The Watchtower teaches a two-class salvation system. It says there’s a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) of 144,000 anointed Christians who will be resurrected in spirit form and rule with Jesus from heaven. These are the ones who are “born again.” Then there’s the great crowd of “other sheep.” They don’t need to be born again. They will never go to heaven but instead will live forever in paradise on earth.
One way to challenge this dogma is to ask the Witnesses about Scripture passages which show that Jesus’ invitation and promises are for everyone who will receive him, not just a select group of 144,000. Tell them you would like to look at them together so they can give their response to them.
John 17:20, 24
Ask them to read aloud Jesus’ words in John 17:20 and 24: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message… 24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
Ask, “Who was Jesus praying for? Where did he say he wanted them to be and what did he want them to do?” The point you are making is that he wants all of his followers to be with him where he is, not just 144,000 of them.
Have them read aloud Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Ask, “Does this passage speak of two hopes or just one?” They may say that the one hope is of your calling and that means there is a heavenly calling and an earthly calling. But the phrase is defined by the context of the passage – one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. That’s not consistent with there being two different hopes and two destinies.
Ask them to read aloud John 10:16, where Jesus says: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (emphasis added).
Ask, “Doesn’t this say that there will be one flock, not two, just as there is one shepherd?” If they ask you who these “other sheep” are, respond, “The Gentiles.” Try to avoid getting into a lengthy diversion regarding the “other sheep” being the Gentiles, but if they decide to dispute it, ask them to read aloud Ephesians 3:4-6.
Ask them to read aloud John 12:26: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me….” (emphasis added).
Ask what Jesus means by “whoever” and “my servant.” Are those words restricted to a special group of 144,000?
Have them also read aloud John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (emphasis added).
Ask, “Was Jesus speaking only to the twelve apostles who heard his words? Is there any indication in this statement that he was distinguishing between 144,000 anointed ones and all his other followers?”
Old Testament believers are included
Matthew 8:11: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
The Watchtower teaches that the Old Testament worthies have no heavenly hope, only an earthly one. Ask them to read aloud and comment on Matthew 8:11: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (emphasis added).
Ask, “According to this passage, in what kingdom are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob located? An earthly kingdom or a heavenly one?” They may argue that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be at tables in the millennial kingdom on earth, which is ruled by the heavenly kingdom. Point out that this verse says they are in the kingdom of heaven.
Hebrews 11:13-16: The Old Testament faithful
Ask them to read aloud Hebrews 11:13-16, which speaks of Old Testament heroes of faith:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (emphasis added)
Ask, “Were these worthies longing for an earthly city or for a heavenly one? What was God’s response?”
Have you ever discussed these issues with a Jehovah’s Witness? What suggestions or questions do you have?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
(Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons -- modified)