Those whom he foreordained are the ones he also called.—Rom. 8:30.
Jehovah began choosing anointed ones after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it seems that all in the first-century Christian congregation were anointed. From the first century until the beginning of the last days, the vast majority of those who claimed to follow Christ were false Christians; Jesus likened them to “weeds.” Even so, Jehovah continued to anoint some faithful ones throughout that time, and they proved to be like the “wheat” Jesus described. During the last days, Jehovah has continued to select those who will make up the 144,000. If he chooses to wait until late into that period to select some for that privilege, who are we to question his wisdom? We must be careful not to react like the disgruntled workers who complained about the way their master dealt with the 11th-hour workers.
There is a saying among Jehovah’s Witnesses that the light keeps getting brighter and brighter —meaning, that what was once taught as the truth was in fact error, but was replaced by newly revealed truth, so that the previously believed error simply becomes old truth without any acknowledgment of the error. The “new light” phenomenon is made out to be some sort of supernatural thing with no humans responsible for previously taught untruth —only the emergence of the beam of new light. It is maddening, to be sure; and unfortunately, the process of revealing new truth is not carried out in a truthful and straightforward way.
Take the day’s text for example, which states in the concluding sentences:
If he chooses to wait until late into that period to select some for that privilege, who are we to question his wisdom? We must be careful not to react like the disgruntled workers who complained about the way their master dealt with the 11th-hour workers.
Most likely the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses who read this text or the Watchtower article from where it was extracted will not view this as any sort of new light or major revision from previously taught truth. Although it is expressed in a very vague and general way, still, the application of the persecution of the 11th hour workers by Jehovah’s Witnesses is a departure.
Granted, Jesus’ illustration in the 20th chapter of Matthew is not something the Watchtower has frequently expounded upon. But, in the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (1991) the illustration of the vineyard workers was explained to apply primarily to the Pharisees and by extension the clergy of Christendom. It is absurd in the extreme, but according to the Watchtower Jesus hired the Pharisees to go out into his vineyard and the apostles were late-comers to the work and were resented by the Pharisees.
The Watchtower then doubles down and asserts that Christ hired the clergy to do his work and agreed with them for their wage and then the Bible Students came along in the 11th hour, which supposedly began in 1919 and has extended to the present. Supposedly the clergy have resented the latecomer anointed remnant.
There is no point dwelling on how preposterous the Watchtower’s teaching is. It certainly is an embarrassment. The point of this article is to highlight the fact that the Governing Body —while obviously contradicting their own teaching on the meaning of the illustration have, at least timidly, intimated that the resentment of the 11th hour workers comes from Jehovah’s Witnesses and not the clergy of Christendom. Of course, even that is not entirely true.
The primary error in the Watchtower’s understanding of the vineyard illustration is that all the workers who were hired by the master ultimately receive their agreed wage. According to the Watchtower’s interpretation, then, the Pharisees and the clergy receive the same wage as the apostles and anointed today. Again, without belaboring the asininity of the Watchtower’s interpretation, obviously that cannot be true. And, certainly, that is not what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. It is only what is implied in their bizarre interpretation.
Since all the workers receive the same wage they all must be anointed. And since they are all in the vineyard working on the same day and are all paid their wage at the same time, the vineyard workers cannot be spread out over multiple generations. No, the illustration applies to those who are on hand when Christ returns.
As regards the comment quoted above, “who are we to question his wisdom,” the answer is —the Governing Body. They have presumptuously questioned God’s wisdom, although now they slough it off on the lowly rank and file JW. In an article published 12 years ago this matter was discussed in detail. In that article a reference was made to the February 15th, 1983, Watchtower, which stated:
“As to the possibility of being a born again replacement at this late hour, understandably only a very few of these remaining anointed ones are likely to forfeit their heavenly calling by becoming unfaithful. Their ranks have by now been thinned by death to only a few thousand. If it becomes necessary to replace one, whom would Jehovah call? Jesus said of those invited to be his apostles: ‘You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials.’ Logically, Jehovah would select someone who had been associated for many years and who had displayed endurance and loyalty under trial, rather than someone who had only recently become a baptized disciple of Jesus and perhaps was yet unproved in many respects. This is not said dogmatically or to provide a basis for judging anyone’s personal claim, but to help newly associated ones to avoid being presumptuous and to be sure of Jehovah’s manner of dealing with them.”
As demonstrated above, the Governing Body most certainly do tell Jehovah his business, asserting that God would not anoint someone who had not proven their worthiness beforehand. By injecting this idea into the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses back then, the Watchtower is responsible for cultivating an atmosphere wherein newly anointed persons have been subjected to subtle persecution and ridicule. But we should not expect the Governing Body to own up to that. It is not the Watchtower way.
But while the resentment of newly anointed persons within Jehovah’s Witnesses is an observable phenomenon, the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus’ vineyard illustration has not taken place. That is because the wage has not been paid out and that is when the disgruntled workers express their resentment of the late hires.
Interestingly, going back to the concluding verse of the 19th chapter of Mathew, Jesus sandwiched his vineyard illustration between the exact same expression. In introduction to the illustration Jesus said: “But many who are first will be last and the last first.” And in conclusion he repeated that, saying at Matthew 20:16: “In this way, the last ones will be first, and the first ones last.”
Since those in union with Christ who have already died are assured of being first to experience the first resurrection, clearly the principle of the first being last and the last first does not apply to them. As stated already, it only applies to those living when Christ returns. In what way might the principle apply to them?
From the very beginning of the gathering of the latter day saints, to borrow an expression, the Watchtower has perpetrated the falsehood that the presence of Christ has begun. For over 50 years it proclaimed that an invisible parousia began in 1874. Since 1930 the date has been flipped to 1914. In any case, there is no such thing as an invisible presence. After all, Jesus has always been invisibly present with his disciples, even as he assured them on the day of his departure, when he said: “look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
No, the parousia is something much different. Jesus explained it in another illustration. Speaking to his little flock, Jesus said: “Be dressed and ready and have your lamps burning, and you should be like men waiting for their master to return from the marriage, so when he comes and knocks, they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on coming finds watching! Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he comes in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them ready, happy are they! But know this, if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely, the Son of man is coming.” –Luke 12
The coming of the Son of man is what begins the parousia. As Jehovah’s Witnesses surely know, the Greek word parousia literally means to come alongside. And in the illustration above Jesus spelled it out. He said if he found his disciples ready to open the door to him he would come in an recline at the passover table with them and come alongside and minister to them. In other words, Jesus is going to visibly manifest himself to the chosen ones. It will have a transformative effect upon them.
But, we should not suppose that Jesus will simultaneously manifest himself to all. We can take a clue from the way Jesus manifested himself to his disciples after his resurrection. First, he revealed himself to Mary and told her to tell his brothers he had risen. Her testimony was disbelieved. It seems that one of the apostles, Thomas, was the very last one to see Jesus, because of his disbelief.
Because the old guard associated with the Bethel establishment have promoted a false parousia, yet they have all the honors as being the wise and faithful servant, they being first now will be last then. Those who are anointed lastly will be the first to see the Son of man when he comes. He will come alongside the last first. That is in keeping with the fact that the 11th hour workers are the first to be paid. Likely their testimony will be disbelieved and they will be persecuted by their own brothers until such time as Christ appears to them and the scales fall from their eyes. “In this way, the last ones will be first, and the first ones last.”