Someone posted a comment on your website the other day stating that the little flock was Jewish Christians and the other sheep is gentile believers. You didn’t respond to the comment, but would you explain why that is not true?
I am always happy to answer questions. First, it is recommended that we consider the context of any verse in question. By doing so we may gain a broader view. Take the little flock for example. Jesus only used that expression once in the gospel, at Luke 12:32. There is no question the little flock is called to heaven as Jesus said the Father has approved of giving them the Kingdom, which is the Kingdom of the heavens. So, the question is, is the little flock merely the Jews who accepted Jesus? The answer can be found in context. Read on.
The very next paragraph Jesus addresses his little flock, saying to them: “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.”
As any honest reader will agree, the little flock to whom Jesus is speaking will be in existence when the Son of man comes as a thief in the night to initiate the judgment. Obviously, when Jesus returns to gather his sheep there will not be one flock of Jewish sheep and another flock of non-Jewish sheep.
It is worth pointing out again the reference to the master coming alongside his slaves and ministering to them as they recline at the table has to do with the parousia. The Greek word “parousia” literally means to come alongside. The fact that they are made to recline at the table as Jesus ministers to them is intended to evoke the setting of the original Evening Meal when Jesus passed the cup of wine among his apostles and said: “This cup means the new covenant…”
Without dispute, the little flock who will be on earth when the master arrives are participants in the new covenant. The original Evening Meal and Jesus’ subsequent death later that day (according to Jewish reckoning of time) initiated the new covenant. Christ’s return and his coming alongside his little flock will conclude the new covenant.
What about the other sheep?
Like the expression “little flock” Jesus only spoke of the “other sheep” on one occasion. He said regarding them: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” — John 10:16
In this instance the surrounding context does not allow us to definitively identify the “other sheep.” So, we might assume Jesus had in mind Gentile Christians. However, it is noteworthy that Jesus said his other sheep were not of the same fold. A fold might be thought of a smaller enclosure— a fenced pen. Again, some might assume that Jesus meant that his Jewish disciples were one fold and the Gentile believers who came later were another fold. But that would imply that before the Gentile Christians were gathered into the one flock they were in their own holding pen or fold. And that is not the case at all. The non-Jewish people of the nations had no relationship with God prior to their becoming Christians. Paul said of them in the second chapter of Ephesians: “At that time you were without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel, strangers to the covenants of the promise; you had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made the two groups one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off.”
According to Paul the two groups were made one by the blood of Christ and came to be in union with Christ, which means both the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised people of the nations were anointed. There was no longer any distinction in God’s eyes between the two. There was no fence separating them. They were in the same fold, so-to-speak. But according to the illustration in John, Jesus spoke of the little flock as still in their own pen or fold even after they are made one flock with the other sheep.
Given the fact that remnants of the little flock will be found waiting for the master in the future when they will be ministered to by him, it is likewise reasonable to suppose that the “other sheep” will be gathered then too— or, more correctly, shortly thereafter.
FOR THE JEW FIRST THEN THE GREEK
In his letter to the Romans, Paul used an interesting expression. In three places Paul said, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” On the surface we might think the apostle was merely referring to natural Jews and non-Jewish people of the nations. We do well to keep in mind, though, that in the very same letter to the Romans Paul artfully made the case that natural Jews are not the real Jews. In the second chapter, where Paul referred to the Jew first and then the Greek, he also explained what a Jew is: “For he is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision something on the outside, on the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit and not by a written code.” — Romans 2:28-29
According to Paul, the real Jews are those who are in union with Jesus by virtue of the new covenant. Both natural-born Jews and Gentiles were real Jews on the inside— having been anointed by the spirit. (All non-Jewish people of the nations were called Greeks since the world at that time, although dominated by Rome, had been Hellenized and Greek was still the prevailing language.) True, the fleshly Jews were the first to be taken into the new covenant. So, in that sense, the Greeks came later. But there is more to it.
Paul indicated that the Jew will be judged first and then the Greek. “There will be tribulation and distress on every person who works what is harmful, on the Jew first and also on the Greek; but glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” — Romans 2:9-10
In context, Paul was referring to the Second Coming of Christ. That is apparent from verse 16 where Paul went on to write: “This will take place in the day when God through Christ Jesus judges the secret things of mankind, according to the good news I declare.”
Surely, no clear-thinking person would come to the conclusion that when Jesus comes he is going to judge and punish people of Jewish ancestry first. That is absurd. (Of course, sadly, people believe all kinds of ridiculous nonsense.)
Since the apostle made the case that the real Jews are those called to be with Christ, anointed Christians are the “Jews” who will be judged first. Surely, that is in keeping with what Peter wrote concerning these matters. “For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the outcome be for those who are not obedient to the good news of God?” — 1 Peter 4:17
If the “Jew” Paul spoke of symbolizes all of the anointed, as it surely does, what about the Greek?
Paul spoke of salvation for both the Jew and the Greek at Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Again, since fleshly Jews, as well as Greeks, became the real Jews who comprise the house of God that comes under judgment first, the “Greek” who accepts the good news and who is to be judged secondarily, that is after the “Jew,” must be non-anointed believers. Hence, the “other sheep” are those whom Christ gathers after the little flock is saved.
The Watchtower is right in identifying the little flock and the other sheep as being anointed and non-anointed believers during the conclusion.
However, the question for Jehovah’s Witnesses to consider is this: Have the other sheep already been gathered into a unified flock along with the little flock? Obviously, the Watchtower unequivocally asserts that to be true. But it has been my duty to point out the falsity of the Watchtower’s assertion, which I have done over the years through numerous articles. An explanation is in order.
Jesus has a congregation. He has had from the beginning. He will more especially use his congregation to preach the good news throughout the world prior to his return. Jesus assured his disciples that he would be with them all the days until the conclusion. Also, the good news has to be preached first? First before what? Before the conclusion. The Watchtower’s primary error is the teaching that the conclusion has already begun.
Prior to Christ’s second coming, his congregation is peopled by faithful and unfaithful individuals. Obviously, there is a faithful slave and also a slave who will be condemned as being wicked and sluggish. That is why there is to be a judgment. I present the apostle’s words again: “There will be tribulation and distress on every person who works what is harmful, on the Jew first and also on the Greek; but glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” — Romans 2:9-10
The coming tribulation, needless to say, will impact everyone on earth. It will serve as the means by which a sifting and refining process will take place. It is in the aftermath of the tribulation that Christ gathers his sheep into one flock. That is why the great crowd are said to “come out of the great tribulation.” As Jesus indicated in the 25th chapter of Matthew the sheep will receive the blessing because of their treatment of Christ’s brothers. Contrary to the present belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses those “brothers” do not presently exist. Even according to the Watchtower the separation of the sheep and the goats has not taken place yet. (See October 15, 1995, Watchtower)
In keeping with the axiom the Jew first then the Greek, the 24th, and 25th chapters of Matthew present the same sequence. First, Jesus judges his house and the faithful slaves are rewarded and the unfaithful are put out. Jesus gave a series of illustrations on this point, the illustration of the silver talents and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins— only the wise receiving the blessing of entry into the marriage feast. Lastly, Jesus spoke the illustration of the sheep and the goats.
So, it is no insignificant detail that the “brothers” of Christ are those who receive the Master’s approval first (the Jew first). In other words, they will be sealed with God’s irreversible approval. That is what is illustrated by the master coming alongside his faithful slaves and ministering to them. They will see Jesus in his glory. That is when the little flock is given the Kingdom. Becoming the approved brothers of Christ makes them sons of God too.
The fact that the sheep and goats are judged as to the treatment of the sons of God can only take place after the revealing of the sons of God– when the chosen ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
That is why the world will be accountable to God for their treatment of the approved sons of God— as Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
While the sons of God are still in the flesh all those who treat them hospitably will be joined to them in one flock under Christ’s direction. Those separated from the goats will become the “other sheep” that Jesus said he would bring.
At that point, the new heavens and the new earth will come into existence and this world will violently pass into oblivion.