After creating the first man and woman in his image, Jehovah stated his purpose for them was that they fill the earth and have in subjection every non-human creature on the planet. Being made in God’s image not only means that humans are endowed with divine characteristics, but seeing that God lives forever, those in his image are also imbued with a sense of infinite futurity and the potential to realize it. Death would only come about through rebellion. If Adam and Eve had not willingly disobeyed God’s clearly stated command they would still be alive today and the earth would be an entirely different place.
But God’s purpose to have the earth developed into a beautiful paradise, where all people could live together forever in peace and happiness, has not been abandoned – only slightly diverted and delayed. Through Isaiah God reiterated his purpose in creating the earth, saying: “For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: ‘I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.’”
In saying his intention is for the earth to be inhabited, that statement should not be understood to mean inhabited by successive generations, like a property that is willed from the deceased to the next generation. As stated, God intended for Adam and Eve to live forever on the earth. This great truth runs counter to the common opinion of churchgoers, who invariably believe the ancient myth that life on earth is merely a doorway for departing souls to inhabit some other world – be it heaven or that mythological, subterranean inferno. The Bible teaches something entirely different. The Bible teaches that the dead are in fact dead, that no part of the person survives death. Instead of an immortal soul the Scriptures foretell of a resurrection from the dead back to life on earth. The resurrection is the means by which God will accomplish his purpose to have the earth filled with perfect people.
But what about heaven? Did not Jesus promise his followers that they would be with him in heaven? Yes he did, but not all of Jesus’ followers will be with him in heaven. Prior to Jesus coming the Hebrews had a hope of an earthly resurrection, and Jesus himself reinforced that belief when he resurrected four individuals. But Jesus also revealed that it was God’s purpose to choose some from among mankind to be co-rulers with him in heaven. This was something entirely new for the Jews and was the primary reason the apostles could not at first comprehend what Jesus was telling them when he spoke of his impending death.
JESUS AS THE FIRSTBORN
The apostle Paul described Jesus as the firstborn of all creation and the first born of many brothers, as well as the firstborn from the dead. It is already been explained in a previous article how Jesus was the firstborn of all creation, but in what sense is Jesus the firstborn of many brothers and the firstborn from the dead? (Note for Trinity believers: God does not have brothers - only sons) In regards to being the firstborn of many brothers this is in reference to his being born again. Contrary to the popular misunderstanding of what being born again means Jesus himself was born again when John baptized him the Baptist. On that occasion God’s holy spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a visible dove. At that moment Jesus was anointed with the spirit to be the Christ, the Messiah. That is what those words mean, messiah and christ mean anointed one.
Jesus lived in heaven with Jehovah God and the angels prior to his coming down to the earth. When Jesus was born of the virgin Mary he was human. He had completely forsaken his spiritual nature. He was not a god/man. But when he was born again, begotten by God’s holy spirit, he was reborn as a spirit son of God. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that what is flesh is flesh in what has been born of the spirit is spirit. In other words, humans are humans and spirits are spirits. Although after his becoming born again Jesus remained in the flesh until his death. Upon his resurrection he became a spirit, an immortal spirit.
On the day of Pentecost the apostles of Jesus and 120 other disciples were also baptized with the holy spirit. They too became born-again. If they prove faithful unto death they too would become immortal spirits, just like Jesus. In that way Jesus is the first born of many brothers.
Although Jesus himself resurrected four persons those persons who were resurrected eventually died again. However, Jesus was the firstborn from the dead who will never die again. Those who are in union with Jesus are said to partake of the first resurrection. Reasonably, though, if there is a first resurrection there is also a second resurrection. The second resurrection is the general resurrection of the dead; those whom Jesus spoke of who will come out of the memorial tombs, some to a resurrection of life and some to a resurrection of judgment. The Bible says the second death has no authority over those who are privileged to partake of the first resurrection. That means they will never be subject to death again because of having attained immortality.
How does one become anointed? In the first century apparently all that was required was baptism in the name of Jesus. It is interesting that some who associated with the Christian congregation then and who taught the truth correctly, to a point, had only been baptized with the baptism of John and hence were not anointed until they were re-baptized in Jesus’ name. This proves that a person can be a follower of Jesus without being anointed. Consider the account in Acts 18-19 concerning Apollos and a dozen others:
“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent man, arrived in Ephesus; and he was well versed in the Scriptures. This man had been orally instructed in the way of Jehovah and, as he was aglow with the spirit, he went speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus, but being acquainted with only the baptism of John. And this man started to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him into their company and expounded the way of God more correctly to him. Further, because he was desiring to go across into Achaia, the brothers wrote the disciples, exhorting them to receive him kindly. So when he got there, he greatly helped those who had believed on account of God’s undeserved kindness; for with intensity he thoroughly proved the Jews to be wrong publicly, while he demonstrated by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
In the course of events, while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland parts and came down to Ephesus, and found some disciples; and he said to them: ‘Did you receive holy spirit when you became believers?’ They said to him: ‘Why, we have never heard whether there is a holy spirit.’ And he said: ‘In what, then, were you baptized?’ They said: ‘In John’s baptism.’ Paul said: ‘John baptized with the baptism in symbol of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the holy spirit came upon them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. All together, there were about twelve men.”
Notice that Apollos is said to have been aglow with the spirit and he even persuasively taught the truth concerning Jesus; yet he had not been anointed at that point, as the account goes on to reveal that all those who had been baptized in the baptism of John only were not anointed with the spirit. This proves that persons who are not anointed by the spirit may still have the spirit operate upon them and they may even serve as ministers of Christ, even as the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses today do not claim to be anointed, yet have God’s spirit and a viable ministry.
(Side note: The apostles and 120 were probably not baptized in Jesus’ name either but after the outpouring of spirit on Pentecost it became necessary for all believers to be baptized in his name. There seems to be a modern parallel, in that, the Original Bible Students associated with C.T. Russell were mostly believers drawn from the various denominations. They were not baptized as International Bible Students if they had already been baptized, and apparently many were anointed. However, after 1919 all persons wishing to become recognized as Bible Students were baptized, regardless of whether they may have been baptized in the nominal churches.)
Jehovah’s purpose in this period is to gather the remaining number of the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ, and also to gather from among the nations persons of faith whom God is pleased to allow to inherit the earth after the present wicked civilization is swept away. Paul referred to God’s two-fold purpose in his letter to the Ephesians as a sacred secret, saying: “This he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and good sense, in that he made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”
The teachings of the New World Society of Jehovah's Witnesses are unique. In accord with the sacred secret revealed to Paul, at this particular time in history an organization has appeared on the world stage, devoted not only to publicizing Christ’s kingdom and the name of God, but being composed of persons with a heavenly hope and others with an earthy hope. This development is surely a result of the household administration Jehovah has willed into existence as a prelude to the advent of the kingdom itself.
The new heaven will become fully operational when the last of the chosen ones are united with Christ in heaven. The new earth will become a reality when the great crowd emerges as the sole survivors of the great tribulation.