How Are We Reconciled to God
by Ronald Frye
Witnessing to Jehovahís Witnesses
This article is prepared to assist the Christian in presenting the
good news to Jehovahís Witnesses. "How We Are Reconciled to God,"
was selected because it represents the foundation doctrine of the
Christian faith, thoroughly developed in the Scriptures (hence best
defended) and is less threatening to Jehovahís Witnesses than other
Realistically, one should not expect to dramatically change a
Witnessí thinking on this salvation issue, but you may be able to
plant a seed that may grow in his heart and mind. Apart from the
possibility that we might be able to influence a Witness for good we
should want to share the good news with anyone and everyone not
presently enjoying that precious free gift from God.
UNDERSTANDING THE WITNESS VIEWPOINT
Talking with any Witness on any Bible topic is difficult, at best,
because most people do not understand their basic doctrinal
concepts. One needs to know where the Witness is coming from in
order to intelligently challenge him. And, we might add, the
believer with only a superficial understanding of Scripture will
have a difficult time with the well-trained Witness.
On the matter of how we are reconciled with God, it is necessary to
know something of their convoluted view of salvation. The Witnesses
teach that there are two classes of Christians with different hopes
of future life.. One class is limited to 144,000 while the second
class includes millions. Currently a few Witnesses claim to be of
the 144,000. In 1992 there were 8,683 who publicly identified
themselves as such. In the same year nearly 4.5 million Witnesses
declared themselves to be of the second group. The smaller group
views itself as the remaining ones of the 144,000 and claim to be
sons of God with a heavenly hope. The 4.5 million Witnesses (as of
1992) are not sons of God, have no hope of heaven, but will live
forever on the earth. That is their hope. So you end up with two
groups of people in one fellowship all claiming to be Christians but
with different hopes of life.
The Witness who calls on you is not likely to count himself among
the 8,000 or so who identify themselves with the "remnant" of the
144,000 heavenly class. He will view himself as part of the "earthly
class" of Jehovahís Witnessesóthe larger group.
How did they arrive at this idea of two groups of believers with
different relationships with God and different hopes? This radical
notion was articulated by Joseph F. Rutherford, second president of
the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, at a convention in
Washington, D.C., May 31, 1935. At that time he proclaimed that
chapter 7 of Revelation identified two classes of believers: the
144,000 and "the great multitude." According to Rutherford, verses
1-8 identified a heavenly class limited to 144,000 and verses 9-17
an earthly class of believers who would come out of the "great
His view was that from A.D. 33 to A.D. 1935 the 144,000 "elect" were
selected to be part of the spiritual "Israel of God"óthe Christian
congregation of Jesus Christ. By 1935 that calling to a heavenly
hope came to an end because the 144,000 had been already selected
from among mankind. Now, in 1935, a new class of Christians was
being created. Those making up this class of Christians would become
part of the "great multitude" and survive the end of the world which
was viewed as being immediately ahead.
The identification of the "great multitude" of Revelation 7:9 KJV as
being distinct from the body of Christ was first proposed by
Rutherfordís predecessor, Charles T. Russell, the founder and first
president of the WBTS. Russell, taught that the "high calling" of
the 144,000 members of Christís congregation extended from A.D. 33
to A.D. 1881. In 1881, according to Russell, the opportunity to be
part of the elite 144,000 came to an end. The"great multitude" of
Revelation 7:9 was said by Russell to identify a lesser class of
Christians whowould have heavenly life but with lesser glory than
The "great multitude" would receiveeverlasting life in heaven but
they would not reign with Christ as priests and kings and would not
receiveimmortality (self-existing life) as would the 144,000. (1 Cor.
15:53) So, from 1881 until 1935, that was what the Witnesses
believed and taught. (Note: Until 1931 they called themselves
International Bible Students. In 1931 they adopted the name
Both Russell, and his successor, Rutherford believed they were
living in the "time of the end." Russell taught that the "time of
the end" mentioned in the book of Daniel (8:17) began in 1799 and
would conclude with the end of the world in 1914. He taught that the
last 40 years of this period (1874-1914) marked a "harvest" period
of approved Christians and a judgment period against nominal
believers. According to Russell, Christ Jesus returned invisibly in
October, 1874 to begin these judgment proceedings. The execution of
this judgment would be climaxed in 1914 when the whole world would
1914 did not bring the end of the world as Russell predicted. His
calculations regarding the "time of the end" and Christís invisible
return in October, 1874 continued to be taught until 1928. It was
then decided that Christ didnít return invisibly in 1874 but 40
years later in October, 1914. What had at one time been the
concluding date of Russellís calculations now became the beginning
date for a new round of prophetic speculations regarding the "time
of the end."
Jehovahís Witnesses continue to teach that those who witnessed the
events of 1914 will not pass away until the end comes. For many
years their Awake! magazine declared: "this magazine builds
confidence in the Creatorís promise of a peaceful and secure new
world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes
away." (bottom, page 4 of each issue.) Notice that they said that
this was "the Creatorís promise."ónot theirs!
But, as of November 8, 1995, the Awake! magazine removed any
reference to the 1914 generation and the end of the world! Now it
says: "Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the
Creatorís promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about
to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things." By this
significant change they tacitly admit that yet another one of their
many predictions has also been proven false. (Deut. 18:20-22)
HOW WITNESSES ARE SAVED
As previously explained only a few thousand Witnesses declare
themselves born again Christians. Only these few apply to themselves
the new covenant promises as they are the only ones who are in the
new covenant. This means that the millions of Witnesses not in the
new covenant cannot claim any of its privileges or benefits. The new
covenant promise found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and repeated in Hebrews
8:7-12 is the covenant in which the Christian Church functions. To
say you are a Christian and deny that you are in the new covenant is
a contradiction of terms.
Not being in the new covenant means that millions of Witnesses
cannot claim Jesus Christ as their mediator between themselves and
God. (1 Timothy 2:5) The Witness who calls on you cannot apply to
himself any of the new covenant blessings because he is not included
in it. This is a critical factor you need to understand when talking
with a Witness about how we are reconciled to God because any and
all Scriptures originally written to those in the new covenant
cannot be used by him to define his relationship with God for the
simple reason that he declares himself excluded from it!
Their book Insight on the Scriptures, says the following under the
subject New Covenant: "The parties to the new covenant are Jehovah
on one side and Ďthe Israel of God,í the spirit-begotten ones in
union with Christ, making up his congregation or body, on the other
side. . . By means of Jesusí mediatorship of the new covenant, he
assists those in the covenant to become part of the real seed of
Abraham (Heb 2:16; Ga 3:29) through forgiveness of their sins.
Jehovah declares them righteous.óRo 5:1,2;8:33; Heb 10:16,17"
óVol.1, 1988, page524.
Notice that application of the scriptures cited above are limited to
"the Israel of God." And the Witnesses are told that only 144,000
make up "the Israel of God," and only about 8,000 Witnesses in the
world claim to be of this number! In other words, the Witness who
calls on you cannot apply any of those scriptures to himself. This
means he cannot claim to be declared righteous, his sins have not
been forgiven and he is not a child of God. Those gifts are only
extended to those in the new covenant. Everything said in the New
Testament about becoming a son of God, passing over from death to
life, being a son of Abraham, being in union with Christ, sharing in
Christís death and resurrection, being declared righteous, being
born again, being joint-heirs with Christ, partaking of the bread
and wine in communion with Christ and Godónone of these things can
be claimed by the Witness who calls on you! (see Romans 8:14-17;
John 5:24; Romans 4:16,17; 5:1; 8:1,2; John 3:3,7; 1 Cor.
At this point you might be thinking: "How can these things be true?
How could a person deny all these things and still call himself a
Christian?" The answer is found in the way salvation issues are
presented to the Witnesses. They are told that their spiritual
security and acceptance with God is premised on their submitting to
the spiritual authority exercised through the Watchtower Society, by
those who call themselves the remnant of the 144,000.
They teach that God has always dealt with people as a group through
an organization. This isnít true, of course, but they read this
conclusion into certain scriptures to prove their point. The truth
is that from the time of Noah God has dealt with people by means of
covenant. (Gen. 9:8-17) A covenant is a binding agreement between
two or more parties to effect a certain outcome. God made a covenant
with Abraham to produce a seed or heir through whom all families of
the earth were to receive a blessing. The visible sign of that
enduring covenant was circumcision performed in perpetuity on the
male members of Abrahamís descendants. (Gen. 17:1-14) In keeping
with Godís directive Abraham was circumcised when he was ninety-nine
years old. (Gen.17:24) The apostle Paul explains that this "sign of
the covenant" was also a sign of the righteousness Abraham had as a
result of faith. (Rom. 4:11; Gen. 15:1-21)
Later, God made a law covenant with Abrahamís descendants after
their deliverance from Egypt. This covenant was in force until the
coming of Christ. Then God established the new covenant foretold in
Jeremiah 31. The new covenant would work to fulfill Godís covenant
with Abraham, namely, that by means of his seed all families of the
earth would be blessed. In Galatians the apostle Paul explains the
temporary nature of the law covenant that was taken out of the way
by the sacrifice of Jesus Christóthe same sacrifice that also
inaugurated the new covenant. ( Matt. 26:27,28; Gal. 3:16-29; Col.
The Scriptures make it plain that God deals with his people by means
of covenant. If you are not in a covenant relationship with God then
you simply have no relationship with God. We see this truth
illustrated in the situation the Gentiles were in during the time
the state of Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. They
were without God! (Eph. 2:11,12) It is the same with the new
covenant. Those excluded from the new covenant are without God.
Jehovahís Witnesses, we are sorry to say, argue that they are not
included in the new covenant. To say this and believe it is to take
yourself outside of Godís saving arrangement through Jesus Christ.
You cannot accept Christ unless you accept him on the terms he is
offered in Scripture and those terms are that reconciliation with
God through Christ means to become a son of God. (Gal. 3:26) To
enter the kingdom of God you must experience the new birth. (John
3:1-8) "Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born
from God." ó1 John 5:1 New World Translation. There is but one class
of Christians with one hope addressed in the New Testament. (Eph.
4:4-6; 1 Peter 2:5,9).
The Witnesses are confused and deceived on this vital matter. The
Watchtower Society teaches that the seed of Abraham is made up of
Jesus, as the primary seed, and 144,000 additional ones who fill out
the remainder of Abrahamís seed. They further argue that through
this seed (1 + 144,000) all others will be blessed. The Witness who
calls on you says that while he is not a part of Abrahamís seed (the
144,000), he is a part of the ones to be blessed by this seed. So he
feels a sense of religious security in thinking he comes under the
umbrella of the Abrahamic promiseónot as part of the seed but as
part of the nations to be blessed by that seed. This reasoning has
been created by the Watchtower Society and read into the Scriptures
to support their two classes of Christians doctrine. The apostle
Paul explains in Galatians that Jesus Christ is the promised seed of
Abraham, the one through whom all families of the earth were to
receive a blessing. (Gal. 3:16) However, those who put faith in
Christ are baptized into Christ and become sons of God. This also
results in their becoming children (seed) of Abraham due to faith.
Those who are reconciled to God by means of faith are justified or
declared righteous as Abraham was by his faith. It is in this way
that they are part of his seed and can call him father. The
apostleexplains this fatherhood of Abraham of all believers in
Romans 4. He concludes by saying: "He [Abraham] is the father of us
So, in Galatians the apostle consistently points out that the
Gentile believers were also Abrahamís seed (but not the seed of
promiseóonly Christ fits that role). The Gentile Christians in
Paulís day were being blessed just as God promised they would be.
Notice how it reads in the Watchtowerís own translation of Paulís
words:"Surely YOU know that those who adhere to faith are the sons
of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would
declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the
good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ĎBy means of you all the
nations will be blessed.í Consequently those who adhere to faith are
being blessed together with faithful Abraham." óGalatians 3:7-9 New
Note carefully in the above that ones Paul was writing to were
included with the "nations to be blessed" by his seed, Jesus Christ.
Paul was not speaking of a different class of believers who would
not show up for nearly two thousand years as the Watchtower teaches.
The blessing to the nations was already flowing to those Gentile
believers. They were being brought into the new covenant to enjoy
the full benefit of what that means.
The New Testament was written for, by and to the Church of Jesus
Christ in the new covenant. Enforce the consequences of this truth
on the next Witness who calls. Ask him how we are reconciled to God?
Listen to his answer. Does he use certain scriptures in his answer?
To whom were those scriptures originally addressed? Does he consider
himself part of that group? If not, they cannot be used by him to
explain his relationship with God. Faith in Jesus Christ leads to
sonship with God. Jesus Christ only mediates for those in the new
covenant. Who is his mediator? Who mediates his prayers to God?
Specifically, what relationship does he have with God?