Great Crowd of Other Sheep?
The Bible is clear that the Great Crowd are in heaven, as was taught by the Watchtower until 1935. The current Watchtower concept of Jesus followers having two hopes is at odds with the Bible teaching of the Other Sheep becoming "one flock."
Revelation 19:1 - "After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven"
Revelation 7:9 - "look! a great crowd ... standing before the throne"
"Consequently, those of the great crowd expect to remain on earth forever and to share in bringing it to a Paradise state. " Watchtower 1980 Aug 15 p.17
One of the core doctrines of the Watchtower is that Jehovah's Witnesses form a "Great Crowd of Other Sheep" that will reside forever on earth. These are separate from the ruling class - the "Little Flock of 144,000". These terms never appear in the Bible, but are Watchtower concepts based on melding the following Scriptures:
Revelation 7:9 "After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands."
John 10:16 "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd."
Revelation 7:4 "I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel."
Luke 12:32 "Have no fear, little flock, because YOUR Father has approved of giving YOU the kingdom."
The term "Great Crowd of Other Sheep" never appears in the Bible
The Watchtower magazine has contained Great Crowd and Other Sheep in the same sentence over 2,500 times during the last fifty years. This Watchtower understanding results from an eisegesis approach, as the context of Revelation and the gospels contain no such arbitrary links. It is only the frequency with which the Watchtower combines these phrases that makes it difficult for Jehovah's Witnesses to read these texts on their own terms.
No Scripture states that either the Great Crowd or Other Sheep are on earth. Christians understand the Great Crowd have a heavenly hope, as did Pastor Russell, and even Rutherford for many years.
"Does the Great Company receive life direct from God on the spirit plane? Answer -- Yes, they receive life direct in that they have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, and when they are begotten they are just the same way as the little flock, because we are called in the one hope of our calling. They do not make their calling and election sure, but not being worthy of second death, they therefore receive life on the spirit plane." What Pastor Russell Saidp.297
"… all the facts and the scriptures bearing upon the matter under consideration show that those who form the great multitude constitute a spirit class, born on the spirit plane." Watchtower 1927 15 Jan pp.19-20 "The Great Multitude,"
"… must be spirit creatures." Vindication Volume 3 (1932) p.204
An examination of the passage referring to the Great Crowd in Revelation 7:9 show that they are in heaven.
Revelation 7:9,10;13-17 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: "Salvation [we owe] to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb." …
And in response one of the elders said to me: "These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?" So right away I said to him: "My lord, you are the one that knows." And he said to me: "These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes."
Each term that identifies the Great Crowd in Revelation 7:9-17 is elsewhere applied by the Watchtower to the Anointed ones in heaven. This places the Great Crowd in heaven. Following are descriptions of the Great Crowd, followed by a scripture using the same term to describe the Anointed heavenly class.
1. "great crowd"
Revelation 19:1 - "After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven"
It is interesting to note that the New World Translation leaves reference to Revelation 19:1 out of it's Bible Words Indexed section under the heading Great Crowd.
2. "out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues"
Revelation 5:9,10 - And they sing a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kingsover the earth. "
3. "standing before (enopion) the throne"
Revelation 7:11 - "And all the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell upon their faces before (enopion) the throne and worshiped God."
See also Revelation 14:3 which has the 144 000 standing before the throne.
4. "before (enopion) the Lamb"
Revelation 5:8 - "And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before (enopion) the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones."
5. "dressed in white robes"
Revelation 6:11- "And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been." The Watchtower ascribes this passage to the 144,000
6. "crying with a loud voice, saying: "Salvation [we owe] to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.""
Revelation 19:1 - "After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: "Praise Jah, YOU people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God"
(w81 1/15 p.16 "The singing of those heavenly voices")
7. "come out of the great tribulation"
Matthew 24:21-22 "For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.
Mark 13:24-27 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling out of heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send forth the angels and will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from earth's extremity to heaven's extremity."
8. "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 22:14 - "Happy are those who wash their robes, that the authority [to go] to the trees of life may be theirs and that they may gain entrance into the city by its gates."
9. "rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple (naos)"
Revelation 11:1-2 "And a reed like a rod was given me as he said: "Get up and measure the temple [sanctuary] of God and the altar and those worshiping in it. But as for the courtyard that is outside the temple [sanctuary], cast it clear out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations,..."
The term naos refers to the temple sanctuary where only the priests were allowed to enter.
10. "One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them"
2 Corinthians 6:16 - For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: "I shall reside among them and walk among [them], and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.
The Watchtower describes its history of this doctrine with misleading statements to support their new light theory. For example the following quote makes it appear that many Bible Students felt they were in line for an earthly resurrection.
"Prior to the 1930's, many of God's people were somewhat uncertain about their hope for future life. Some had thoughts about heavenly life but were fascinated by Bible teachings about a paradise earth." Watchtower 2001 Jan 15 p.19
The fact is that there was no uncertainty about the future of the great crowd as prior to the 1930's it was clearly understood they were in heaven. It was not until Rutherford started making changes to the doctrine immediately prior to 1935 that the followers started to be uncertain about their future hope.
Revelation 7:9 does not say that the Great Crowd are on earth and they are described by terms used to identify those resurrected to heaven. Revelation 19:1 specifically states that there is a "Great Crowd in heaven".
Watchtower Cover Up
Strong's Concordance 3485 naos
Original Word: ναός, οῦ, ὁ, ναῷ, ναοῖς, ναὸν, ναὸς, ναοῦ, ναοὺς
(naós) refers to the sanctuary (the Jewish Temple proper), i.e. with just its two inner compartments (rooms).
Strong's Concordance 2411 hieron
Original Word: ἱερόν, οῦ, τό, ἱερῷ, ἱερόν, ἱεροῦ
Definition: a temple, either the whole building, or specifically the outer courts, open to worshippers.
A strong indication that the Great Crowd are in heaven is that when Revelation 7:15 states that the Great Crowd are "in his temple" it uses the Greek word naos. Naos refers to the inner temple or temple sanctuary. General worshippers were only allowed in the outer courtyard; hieron. The Great Crowd are not on earth, they are in naos, the centre of the temple, the temple sanctuary; that is, they are in heaven itself with the 144,000.
The Watchtower Society understands this distinction between naosnaos and hieron. In the Watchtower 1960 Aug 15 p.493 it explained;
"The fact is that this temple was not just one building but a series of structures of which the temple sanctuary was the center. In the original tongue this is made quite clear, the Scripture writers distinguishing between the two by the use of the words hieron and naos. Hieron referred to the entire temple grounds, whereas naos applied to the temple structure itself, the successor of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Thus John tells that Jesus found all this traffic in the hieron."
For this reason, the New World Translation usually renders naos as "temple [sanctuary]" in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 11:2 "But as for the courtyard that is outside the temple [sanctuary], cast it clear out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations"
(see also Rev 11:2,19; 14:15; 15:5-8; 16:1,17)
However, in Revelation 7:15 the New World Translation just uses the term "temple" when translating naos, as the Watchtower wants to make it appear that the Great Crowd are in an area separate from the Anointed.
The Watchtower claims that the temple sanctuary (naos) can at times mean the outer courtyard of the temple, where the Great Crowd must be standing. It turns out that this argument was both inadequate and deceitful.
In 1980, the Watchtower used 4 proof texts in an effort to prove the Great Crowd are on earth, claiming that the Greek word naos can refer to the other courtyard.
- It was from the courts of the outer temple (naos) that Jesus drove the money changers
- It was the entire temple (naos) that was destroyed as a judgment from God
- It was the entire temple (naos) that had been 46 years in the building - John 2:19
- It was in the outer temple (naos) that Judas threw back the 30 pieces of silver - Matthew 27:5
"No, for Revelation 7:15 (ED) says that "they … publicly serve him day and night in his temple [na.os' in the Greek original text]." Well, now, does this mean that those making up this "great crowd" finally go to heaven where the God is to whom they ascribe their "salvation"? …
… The question revolves around that original Greek word that is variously translated as "tent," "temple" and "sanctuary." For example, in the Bible account of where Jesus Christ drove the money changers and merchantmen out of Herod's temple, the original Greek word used is na.os'. There we read: "Jesus answered, 'Destroy this sanctuary [na.os'], and in three days I will raise it up'. The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary [na.os']: are you going to raise it up in three days?' But he was speaking of the sanctuary [na.os'] that was his body." (John 2:19-21, The Jerusalem Bible) By "sanctuary," what did those Jews mean?
Certainly not the inner sanctuary that contained the vestibule, the Holy and the Most Holy compartments. They meant the temple structure as a whole, including its courtyards, in one of which the money changers and merchantmen were doing business. Herod's temple as a whole was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. … Very plainly the temple, sanctuary, or naos, does not mean just the inner sanctuary, but the entire temple area with all its structures. Matthew 27:5 reports: (4.) "Judas threw the money into the sanctuary [naos] and left them; then he went off and hanged himself." Watchtower 1980 Aug 15 pp.14-16 The "Great Crowd" Renders Sacred Service Where?
John 2:14 hieron Kingdom Interlinear
John 2:19 naos Kingdom Interlinear
This article is appallingly deceptive. This is most obvious in the statement that, "where Jesus Christ drove the money changers and merchantmen out of Herod's temple, the original Greek word used is na.os'." The word naos is not used. John 2:14-15, Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15 all use the word hieron when referring to where the money changers were driven from, as appears in the The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.
John 2:14-15 "And he found in the temple (hieron) those selling cattle and sheep and doves and the money brokers in their seats. So, after making a whip of ropes, he drove all those with the sheep and cattle out of the temple (hieron), and he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables"
The argument regarding John 2:19 is also unreliable, as it cannot be used to show that naos relates to the destruction of Jerusalem's temple. There Jesus is referring to himself, not Jerusalem's temple, and hence it is fitting for him to describe himself as the temple sanctuary, not the entire complex.
John 2:19 "In answer Jesus said to them: "Break down this temple (naos), and in three days I will raise it up."
Whilst Jesus refers to his body as the temple sanctuary naos, when the Bible describes the destruction of Jerusalem's temple as a whole it uses the word hieron. (See Matthew 24:1,2, Mark 13:1-3 and Luke 21:5,6.)
In the next two examples it is baseless conjecture that use of the word naos refers to the entire temple. At John 2:20 the Pharisee's used naos in response to Jesus' use of the word and there is no evidence to show the Pharisees were referring to the entire temple.
At Matthew 27:5 it too is conjecture that Judas threw the coins into the outer sanctuary. Many Bible translations specifically use the term sanctuary, such as International Standard Version (©2012), New American Standard Bible (©1995), Weymouth New Testament, World English Bible and Young's Literal Translation. Bible commentators also describe that Judas threw the coins at or into the temple sanctuary.
"But the best reading is εἰς τὸν ναόν, into the sanctuary. He cast the pieces over the barrier of the enclosure which surrounded the sanctuary, or temple proper, and within which only the priests were allowed, and therefore into the sanctuary." Vincent's Word Studies
Perceptive readers picked up on the 1980 Watchtower's false statements and in a 2002 "Questions from Readers" the Watchtower admits that the great crowd are not in the "courtyard of the Gentiles" but in the temple sanctuary.
""When John saw the "great crowd" rendering sacred service in Jehovah's temple, in which part of the temple were they doing this? - Revelation 7:9-15."
It is reasonable to say that the great crowd worships Jehovah in one of the earthly courtyards of his great spiritual temple, specifically the one that corresponds with the outer courtyard of Solomon's temple.
In times past, it has been said that the great crowd is in a spiritual equivalent, or an antitype, of the Court of the Gentiles that existed in Jesus' day. However, further research has revealed at least five reasons why that is not so. …
Fifth, the Greek word (hi.e.ron') translated "temple" that is used with reference to the Court of the Gentiles "refers to the entire complex, rather than specifically to the Temple building itself," says A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, by Barclay M. Newman and Philip C. Stine. In contrast, the Greek word (na.os') translated "temple" in John's vision of the great crowd is more specific. In the context of the Jerusalem temple, it usually refers to the Holy of Holies, the temple building, or the temple precincts. It is sometimes rendered "sanctuary."-Matthew 27:5, 51; Luke 1:9, 21; John 2:20.
Members of the great crowd exercise faith in Jesus' ransom sacrifice. They are spiritually clean, having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Hence, they are declared righteous with a view to becoming friends of God and of surviving the great tribulation. (James 2:23, 25) In many ways, they are like proselytes in Israel who submitted to the Law covenant and worshiped along with the Israelites.
Of course, those proselytes did not serve in the inner courtyard, where the priests performed their duties. And members of the great crowd are not in the inner courtyard of Jehovah's great spiritual temple, which courtyard represents the condition of perfect, righteous human sonship of the members of Jehovah's "holy priesthood" while they are on earth. (1 Peter 2:5) But as the heavenly elder said to John, the great crowd really is in the temple, not outside the temple area in a kind of spiritual Court of the Gentiles . What a privilege that is! And how it highlights the need for each one to maintain spiritual and moral purity at all times!" Watchtower 2002 May 1 pp.30-31
This 2002 article admits that the Great Crowd is in naos, the temple sanctuary, but gives no explanation as to how this can be on earth. They continued to state that the great crowd is on earth, even though Revelation 7, and specifically verse 15, does not support such interpretation.
In contradiction to this, the Watchtower 2010 once again wrongly states the great crowd are in the outer courtyard, avoiding reference to the word naos.
"Two groups of people have been joined together — the small group of anointed ones and the great crowd of other sheep. (Read Zechariah 8:23.) Although the other sheep do not symbolically serve in the inner courtyard of the spiritual temple, they do serve in the outer courtyard of that temple." Watchtower 2010 Mar 15 p.26
The Watchtower also claims the Other Sheep are an earthly class. This is unsupported Scripturally, as the earth is never mentioned in reference to these sheep. In fact the Bible contains no specific reference to a future earthly resurrection.
The main thrust of the New Testament is that Jesus new covenant applied to both Jews and Gentiles. When Jesus referred to the Other Sheep he said he had a single sheep fold, and indicated this was going to include both Jews and Gentiles.
Reference to a Little Flock and to Other Sheep by Jesus was not applying to two different destinations but to two different sources. That they are "not from (Greek ek, indicating origin) this fold" implies they are from different origins. This is understood when considering the context and how Jesus disciples would have understood this statement. John 10:16 says;
"And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd."
This is part of an answer Jesus was giving to a question asked by the Pharisees at John 9:40.
"And Jesus said: "For [this] judgment I came into this world: that those not seeing might see and those seeing might become blind." Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things, and they said to him: "We are not blind also, are we?"
In answer to this question Jesus goes on to describe his role as shepherd and who his sheep would be. How would the Pharisees, who believed the Jews alone were God's chosen sheep, have understood Jesus having "other sheep, which are not of this fold"?
A fold is a yard, and at that time Jesus was only bringing Jews into his yard. He says at John that other sheep would also be brought into that one flock. He was not saying he would create separate classes, just the opposite, that he was going to unify two classes into one. Jesus new covenant would unify both Jews and Gentiles as "one flock [under] one shepherd".
In line with thisPaul described in detail that Gentiles would become united with Jews as one body;
Ephesians 2:11-18 "Therefore keep bearing in mind that formerly YOU were people of the nations as to flesh; "uncircumcision" YOU were called by that which is called "circumcision" made in the flesh with hands- that YOU were at that particular time without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and 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, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off. By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace; and that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of himself. And he came and declared the good news of peace to YOU, the ones far off, and peace to those near, because through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit.
All Christians are one body and have only one hope, a heavenly one. Jesus was referring to the time when Gentiles too could join as part of this one flock.
Ephesians 4:4 "One body there is, and one spirit, even as YOU were called in the one hope to which YOU were called; "
1 Corinthians 12:13 "For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit."
John 11:51-52 "This, though, he did not say of his own originality; but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was destined to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that the children of God who are scattered about he might also gather together in one."
Romans 2:10-11 "but glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For there is no partiality with God."
Matthew 15:22-24 "And, look! a Phoenician woman from those regions came out and cried aloud. So his disciples came up and began to request him: "Send her away; because she keeps crying out after us." In answer he said: "I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Jesus gave Peter the" keys of the kingdom" to bring non Jewish sheep into his flock.
"Furthermore, the apostle Peter was given "the keys of the kingdom of the heavens" so that people of any race could learn about God's purposes, be "born again" from holy spirit, and become spiritual heirs with Christ. (Matthew 16:19; John 3:1-8) Peter used three symbolic keys. The first was for Jews, the second for Samaritans, and the third for Gentiles. (Acts 2:14-42; 8:14-17; 10:24-28, 42-48) Thus the impartial God, Jehovah, opened to chosen ones of all races the privilege of being Jesus' spiritual brothers and joint heirs of the Kingdom." Watchtower 1988 May 15 pp. 13-14
Under the heading Christianity the New Catholic Encylopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03712a.htm as at June 23rd 2006) states;
"From the plainly expressed purpose of Christ Himself, who, while proclaiming that His personal mission concerned only the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matthew 15:24), announced the future extension of His Kingdom: "Other sheep I have who are not of this fold" (John 10:16); "Many from the east and the west shall come and shall recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11); "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world in testimony to all nations" (Matthew 28:19).
History and Effect
It is commonly stated that Rutherford closed the heavenly calling in 1935 as heaven was running out of room. This is only partially correct. With the number of Jehovah's Witnesses reaching 50,000 Rutherford had to close the calling for the 144,000, as the Bible shows tens of thousands of early Christians were also of the little flock. However, Russell had already explained that the Great Crowd was also heavenly, so an unlimited number of Witnesses could still go to heaven, whilst the 'millions now living who will never die' referred to 'worldly people' surviving into the paradise earth.
It appears that moving the Great Crowd to earth was to support Rutherford's concept of narrow salvation. The most effective way to rapidly grow Watchtower followers was making survival at Armageddon contingent on being one of Jehovah's Witnesses. With anointed Jehovah's Witnesses going to heaven and earthly Armageddon survivors being a Great Crowd of Jehovah's Witnesses, the only option for worldly people became eternal destruction. This concept worked; between 1935 and 1975 the Watchtower Society was one of the fastest growing religions on earth.
An earthly Great Crowd created a second-rate class of people. The Great Crowd was described as Watchtower followers that "were taking the easy road".
"They could see, however, that not all who professed to have made a "consecration" (or, 'to have given themselves fully to the Lord,' as they understood it to mean) thereafter continued to pursue a life of willing self-sacrifice, making the Lord's service their first concern in life. They believed that if these who were said to be of the great multitude were faithful at that time, they would be resurrected to heavenly life-not to rule as kings but to take a position before the throne. Many seemingly consecrated Christians were taking the easy road, failing to manifest true zeal for the Lord's cause and shunning self-sacrifice." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom pp.160, 161
Under Watchtower theology, the followers - the Great Crowd - continue to be of a lower caste. They:
- Are not part of the New Covenant w79 11/15 p.24
- Do not have Jesus as their mediator w79 11/15 pp.22-24
- Most of the New Testament does not apply to them w74 6/15 p.376
- Do not inherit the earth. (This is in the sense that the earth belongs to Jesus and the 144,000, and the great crowd are like tenants.) it-1 p.1201, w58 3/1 p.139
- Are not Born again w96 7/1 p. 21
- They are not part of the congregation of God it-1 p. 498
- The spirit does not pray for them w92 9/15 p. 16
To say that the New Testament was written principally for the 144,000 and key Christian concepts are only applicable to this small number of people is untenable. It means we are to view the many millions of people that died for their Christian beliefs over the last 2000 years as false Christians.
The doctrine of a secondary class is inaccurate and alienates the majority of Jehovah's Witnesses from Jesus. It removes the average Jehovah's Witness from much of the wonder of being a Christian, a relationship with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit and is reminiscent of words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees;
Matthew 23:13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2013