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Mediator - only for the 144,000?
Who is the mediator for Jehovah's Witnesses? Not Jesus! Though rarely mentioned, Jesus is not mediator to the Great Crowd of Jehovah's Witnesses or for the rest of mankind. The official doctrine is that Jesus is mediator for the 144,000 alone.
The Bible states that Jesus is our mediator, and his ransom is for all.
"… one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all." 1 Timothy 2:5,6
In flagrant disregard, Watchtower says Jesus is mediator for just the 144,000 anointed.
"So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the "mediator" only for anointed Christians." Watchtower 1979 Apr 1 p.31
"Likewise, the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, is not the Mediator between Jehovah God and all mankind. He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000 members." Worldwide Security Under the "Prince of Peace" (1986) pp.10-11
If Jesus is only mediator for the few thousand remaining remnant on earth, who is mediator for the millions of Jehovah's Witnesses that do not form part of the 144,000?
"The "great crowd" of "other sheep" that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the "little flock" of those yet in that covenant they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant." Watchtower 1979 Apr 1 p.31
"They recognize that they are not spiritual Israelites in the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, nor part of the "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation."-1 Pet. 2:9. Yet they do benefit from the operation of the new covenant. They benefit from this just as, in ancient Israel, the "alien resident" benefited from residing in among the Israelites who were in the Law covenant.-Ex. 20:10; Lev. 19:10, 33, 34; Rev. 7:9-15. To keep in relationship with "our Savior, God," the "great crowd" needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites." Watchtower 1979 Nov 15 p.27 Benefiting from "One Mediator Between God and Men"
Where is Jesus in that statement?
The 2010 book God's Word For Us Through Jeremiah continues to present this teaching, though so subtly that many Jehovah's Witnesses do not seem to make the connection that Jesus is not their mediator. It explains that Jesus mediates for the new covenant, which is for spiritual Israel, whom the Watchtower teach include only the 144,000.
"... the new covenant is between Jehovah God and spiritual Israel, with Jesus as its Mediator." God's Word For Us Through Jeremiah p.173
The heading "Mediator" in Watchtower Index 1986-2000 carries the subheading, "for anointed only:"
This remained the case in the 2016 index online at wol.jw.org Watchtower Index 1986-2016.
Most congregations no longer have any of the "little flock" to associate with and the reality for Jehovah's Witnesses is that salvation comes from following the Governing Body, the leaders of the Organization. Jesus role as mediator for the Anointed alone is used to underpin the concept that following the directions of the Governing Body is necessary for salvation.
It is common for a cult to claim their leaders mediate for the followers, as emphasised by leading cult researcher, Steven Hassan.
"Mystical manipulation can take on a special quality in these cults because the leaders become mediators for God. The God-centered principles can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation." Combating Cult Mind Control, Steven Hasssan, p.202
In Christianity, Jesus is the mediator through which all mankind have freedom to approach God. The Apostle Paul puts it simply:
1 Timothy 2:5,6 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all."
Jesus alone is our mediator and Paul does not limit who this opportunity is available to. In order to heighten their own authority, cult leaders disregard this concept when assuming the role of mediator upon themselves, using a range of explanations to undermine Paul's statement. With this in mind, it is important to understand the Watchtower Doctrine on the Mediator.
What the Bible Says
The underlying Watchtower reason for Jesus mediating only for the Anointed is that the New Covenant is said to only apply to the 144,000. Is this what the Bible says?
The Law Covenant foreshadowed the New Covenant. It was established in order for the nation of Israel to have their sins forgiven, and required Moses as Mediator and a High Priest to offer atonement. It was not limited to Priests; it covered the sins of all the nation of Israelites and also could include the Alien resident.
Exodus 19:6 "And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
"The terms of the Law covenant allowed for persons of all national backgrounds to come into membership of the congregation of Israel by accepting the true worship of Jehovah and becoming circumcised The alien resident who had become a circumcised worshiper was bound to one law with the Israelites, that is, to obey all the terms of the Law covenant." Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1 p.72 Alien Resident
The Law Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant for forgiveness of sins.
"Jehovah provided Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice to take away sins. This is a specific provision of the "new covenant."" Watchtower 1980 Nov 1 p.31
As with the Law Covenant, the New Covenant is a requirement for forgiveness of sins and is open to all. Being better than the Law Covenant the New Covenant makes possible and is necessary for everlasting life.
The following Scriptures discuss the requirement for all to have forgiveness of sins and make no mention that the covenant is limited to just the priests but is available to all.
Acts 13:38-39 "Let it therefore be known to YOU, brothers, that through this One a forgiveness of sins is being published to YOU; 39 and that from all the things from which YOU could not be declared guiltless by means of the law of Moses, everyone who believes is declared guiltless by means of this One."
Hebrews 9:15, 28 "So that is why he is a mediator of a new covenant, ... 28so also the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many; and the second time that he appears it will be apart from sin and to those earnestly looking for him for [their] salvation."
Romans 3:21-30 "But now apart from law God's righteousness has been made manifest, as it is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; 22 yes, God's righteousness through the faith in Jesus Christ, for all those having faith. For there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom [paid] by Christ Jesus. ... 29 Or is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of people of the nations? Yes, of people of the nations also."
Ephesians 1:7 "By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of [our] trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness."
Romans 6:23 "For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord."
Hebrews 7:25 "Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them."
Hebrews 8:10-12 "'For this is the covenant that I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days,' says Jehovah. 'I will put my laws in their mind, and in their hearts I shall write them. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people. 11 "'And they will by no means teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying: "Know Jehovah!" For they will all know me, from [the] least one to [the] greatest one of them. 12 For I shall be merciful to their unrighteous deeds, and I shall by no means call their sins to mind anymore.'"
By Watchtower definition a mediator is "One who interposes between two parties at variance to reconcile them; an intercessor; an intermediary agent, or go-between. In the Scriptures the term is applied to Moses and Jesus, the mediators respectively of the Law Covenant and the New Covenant." (it-2 p. 360) Matthew 26:27-28 states that forgiveness of sins comes from the New Covenant;
"Also, he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: "Drink out of it, all of YOU; for this means my 'blood of the covenant,' which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins."
Jesus mediates on behalf of all humankind because the new covenant exists for "forgiveness of sins". Jesus is Mediator and High Priest of the New Covenant. All people can avail themselves of forgiveness of sins through the new Covenant and thus have Jesus as their Mediator and High Priest. The New Covenant can only be applied to mankind by Jesus, not by any other humans. (1 Timothy 2:5)
The Watchtower contains an inconsistent view of the mediator. Christians generally believe that Jesus sacrifice for forgiveness of sins is offered to all mankind, and comes from his role as both Mediator and High Priest of the New Covenant. However the Watchtower view is quite unique in that it separates Jesus role for different classes;
- Mediator only for the 144,000
- High Priest on behalf of all
"He mediates the new covenant between God and those taken into the new covenant, the congregation of spiritual Israel. The total number of those who are finally and permanently sealed is revealed in Revelation 7:4-8 as 144,000." Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.362 Mediator
The Watchtower states that whilst Jesus is mediator for 144,000 only, those not under the new covenant will be blessed by Jesus through his role as their High Priest.
"Blessings to Mankind in General. While Jesus' mediatorship operates solely toward those in the new covenant, he is also God's High Priest and the Seed of Abraham. In fulfilling his duties in these latter two positions, he will bring blessings to others of mankind, for all the nations are to be blessed by means of Abraham's seed." Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.362 Mediator
"Christ does not act as Mediator of the new covenant toward them, yet they benefit from this covenant through the work of God's Kingdom. Christ still acts toward them, however, as High Priest, through whom Jehovah can and does apply the ransom to the extent of their now being declared righteous as God's friends. (Compare James 2:23.)" Watchtower 1991 Feb 15 p.18
There is no Scriptural precedent to support the idea that the Mediator can be for a different group than that of the High Priest, or that the High Priest atoned for people not under covenant.
If the 144,000 are supposed to prefigure the kings and priests and also prefigure the entire nation of spiritual Israel, then who are they to rule?
The Watchtower parallels the Great Crowd with the Alien residents under the Law covenant.
"Since a number of these faithful foreigners, or alien residents, are viewed as foreshadowing the great crowd today, their situation is of interest to us.
Such ones were proselytes, dedicated worshipers of Jehovah under the Mosaic Law who were separated from the nations along with the Israelites. (Leviticus 24:22) They offered sacrifices, kept clear of false worship, and abstained from blood, just as the Israelites did." Watchtower 1995 Jul 1 p.17 "The Israel of God" and the "Great Crowd"
As the Great Crowd are said to be foreshadowed by the alien resident then it follows that the Great Crowd are included in the New Covenant in the same way alien residents were included in the Law Covenant.
History of this Doctrine
Why does the Watchtower claim Jesus is only Mediator for the 144,000? The history of the development of this concept provides the answer. The Watchtower did not always teach this distasteful doctrine. Russell taught that the role of Mediator was extended to all mankind.
Russell appears to have been thoroughly confused about the role of mediator. At times he felt that the 144,000 were not under the new covenant, at other times that they were under the New Covenant. When he taught that they were not under the New Covenant it followed that they did not need a mediator and that they (along with Jesus) played role of mediator for mankind.
- Up to 1880 Russell taught that Jesus and the body of Christ (the 144,000) mediated for mankind, so the 144,000 were not included in the New Covenant.
"It should be remembered that we are in him heirs of glory, not under the new covenant, which is still future, but in the Abrahamic covenant." Zion's Watch Tower 1880 Feb p.72
- Russell changed his mind and from 1881 to 1907 said the Church is included in the New Covenant
"In a sense, the operation of the new covenant begins with the Gospel church and lifts us from the plane of degradation and sin-to a justified or reckoned perfect condition, from which we can go forward in the narrow way, becoming heirs of the first covenant." Zion's Watch Tower 1881 Sep p.151
- In 1907, Russell re-introduced his teaching that the new covenant is not made with the church at all.
"It was very inconsistent for us to quote in one breath the Apostle's statement that we are members of the Isaac Seed, the children of the old, original Covenant, and then in the next breath to class ourselves as beneficiaries of the New Covenant." Zion's Watch Tower 1909 Jan 1 p.12 (See also Zion's Watch Tower 1909 Apr 1 p.110)
At least Russell believed Jesus role of mediator was for all mankind.
"Jesus will occupy this mediatorial relationship between God and men until he shall have accomplished fully the intended work-until he shall have brought back into full harmony with God every creature who, being brought to a knowledge of his Creator and his righteous laws, shall desire to be and to do in complete harmony therewith." Studies in the Scriptures - The New Creation p.398
To coincide with his moving the Great Crowd from heaven to earth Rutherford made an almost opposite claim that the New Covenant only applied to the 144,000. In 1934, Rutherford limited who Jesus could mediate for to just the 144,000 Spiritual Israelites.
"Christ Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant toward his own brethren, that is to say, spiritual Israel, during the period of time God is taking out from the nations a people for his name." Watchtower 1934 Apr 1 p.104 Click for scan
It was during this period that Rutherford introduced the concept that only 144,000 go to heaven. The Watchtower was forced into the position of limiting the new covenant to the 144,000 because the Bible states that those under the covenant receive a heavenly resurrection.
Hebrews 10:16-22 "'This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,' says Jehovah. 'I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them,'" 17 [it says afterwards:] "And I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore." 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 which he inaugurated for us as a new and living way through the curtain, that is, his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and our bodies bathed with clean water.. . .
1 Corinthians 15:51-57 "We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. … The sting producing death is sin, but the power for sin is the Law."
Determined to prove that only 144,000 go to heaven, Watchtower had no alternative than say the New Covenant only applies to the 144,000. The Watchtower removed Jesus from being mankind's Mediator in order to support an inaccurate doctrine, that of an earthly resurrection. There is not a single scripture that discusses an earthly resurrection.
The introduction of these teachings was a critical turning point for Watchtower. Even as the number of Jehovah's Witnesses grew over 144,000 Rutherford could have continued with Russell's teaching, allowing additional followers to be part of a heavenly Great Crowd. By sending the Great Crowd to earth and allowing only Jehovah's Witnesses to be part of it Rutherford was able to introduce the concept of narrow salvation. Russell's idea that the majority of mankind were to survive Armageddon could be extinguished. Salvation became dependant solely on belonging to the Watchtower Society. This use of control has continued ever since.
From that time forward the leaders of the Watchtower Society, as part of Spiritual Israel, could demand unquestioning obedience from the secondary class of other sheep.
"All of this should impress upon the minds of the other sheep why the Christian Greek Scriptures focus so much attention on Christ and his anointed brothers and their central role in the outworking of Jehovah's purposes. The other sheep therefore consider it a privilege to support in every way possible the anointed slave class while awaiting "the revealing of the sons of God" at Armageddon and during the Millennium. They can look forward to being "set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God."-Romans 8:19-21." Watchtower 2002 Feb 1 p. 23
"But that does not necessarily mean that they are marked for survival. They must be marked by the 'man with the secretary's inkhorn.' The facts show that "the faithful and discreet slave" class is doing that marking work today.-Matthew 24:45-47. All who want to be marked as having God's approval must accept the instruction that Jehovah is providing through that "slave" class and become true worshipers of Jehovah." Survival into a New Earth p.96
The resultant conclusion of Watchtower doctrine is that the Governing Body have elevated their role to that of mediators themselves.
"With Christ they make up the agency by means of which blessings will be extended to all other obedient ones among mankind. Appreciation of this is a key to understanding the Bible." Survival into a New Earth p. 65
"Being made kings and priests by reason of the new covenant that he mediated, they will share in administering the blessings of Jesus' sacrifice and of his Kingdom rule to all the nations of the earth. Christ's mediatorship, having accomplished its purpose by bringing "the Israel of God" into this position, thus results in benefits and blessings to all mankind." Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.363 Mediator
Watchtower Style Reasoning
Watchtower uses an eisegesis approach to arrive at doctrine; that is, it creates a doctrine and then manipulates scriptures to support it. This requires resorting to rhetorical fallacy to convince people what they are saying is true.
A classic example of this is in a 1989 article explaining why Jesus is not mediator for all mankind. Following are some quotes;
"Is Jesus the Mediator only for spirit-anointed Christians or for all mankind, since 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 speaks of him as the "mediator" who "gave himself a corresponding ransom for all"?
The Bible contains both basic teachings and deep truths, which are solid food for study. ...
To grasp what Paul is saying, we must first appreciate that the Bible sets out two destinies for faithful humans: (1) perfect life on a restored earthly paradise and (2) life in heaven for Christ's "little flock," numbering 144,000.
... The Greek word me.si'tes ...
Clearly, then, the new covenant is not a loose arrangement open to all mankind. It is a carefully arranged legal provision involving God and anointed Christians.
This should help us to understand 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. Here the reference to "mediator" was made after the five other occurrences of the word in letters written earlier. Hence, Timothy would have understood Jesus' mediatorship to be His legal role connected with the new covenant. ...
Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 is not using "mediator" in the broad sense common in many languages. It is not saying that Jesus is a mediator between God and all mankind. ... The apostle John referred to these at 1 John 2:2. But he indicated that others too will receive the benefit of Christ's sacrifice: "He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world's."
Those of 'the whole world' are all who will gain eternal life in a restored earthly paradise. Millions of such approved servants of God now have that earthly hope...." Watchtower 1989 Aug 15 pp.30-31
The article starts saying this is solid food, indicating that if you don't agree with or understand the conclusion you are spiritually immature. It then shows that in order to understand the role of the Mediator another Watchtower doctrine must be believed. However no Scripture is given to back up the doctrine that humans will be resurrected onto earth, as there is no Scripture that makes such a statement. In fact, when Revelation 7 and 19 discusses the Great Crowd it places them in heaven "before" the throne. (See Paradise Earth and Great Crowd) The doctrine of the Mediator is built upon this shaky foundation.
There follows lengthy inclusion of Greek definitions. This seems to be a diversionary attempt to give an air of authority to the article, as the discussion has no bearing on the existence of a secondary class or answering the original question.
The article next attempts to add weight by inclusion of a commonly used Watchtower word - "clearly". This term is constantly used in Watchtower articles to reinforce a questionable point. The writer also claims to be privy to what "Timothy would have understood".
Not content with limiting the mediatorship to only 144,000 people, the article goes on to add that the propitiatory sacrifice, which the Bible says is for the "whole world's" sins, only applies to those that gain life in the earthly paradise. Since the Watchtower teaches billions will die at Armageddon without any hope of a resurrection, it is excluding all worldly people alive from the value of the sacrifice as well.
Religions do not volunteer their most offensive doctrines to newcomers, and Watchtower doctrine about the mediator generally is not presented to Bible Studies before baptism. The word mediator does not appear at all in What Does the Bible Really Teach?, a primary teaching aid of Jehovah's Witnesses. Yet Jesus role as mediator is an important and fundamental teaching of Christianity, directly discussed in the Bible. In the Reasoning book the only mention of the mediator is in an unrelated manner that attempts to explain why we should not trust in Saints;
"1 Tim. 2:5, JB: "There is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus." (There is no allowance here for others to serve in the role of mediator for the members of Christ's congregation.)" Reasoning From the Scriptures? p.184 par. 7
That is an ironic statement, since the Governing Body claim the Great Crowd benefit from Jesus role as mediator by being in contact with them.
Watchtower hypocritically criticises the Catholic teaching that Saints can be “intercessors with God”, quoting 1 Timothy that there is only one mediator, yet the Watchtower teaching that the anointed mediate for the Great Crowd is in the same vein as this Catholic teaching.
Watchtower 2014 Jun 1 p.15
Jesus acts as both Mediator and High Priest. He is mediator to all mankind, with no intermediary between himself and humans. No man is our head; everyone answers directly to Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:3 "But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ"
Watchtower teaches that only 144,000 people make up the New Covenant, and that Jesus is mediator for them alone. Of the billions of people that have ever lived the New Covenant is only open to 144,000 people, around 50,000 of which lived in the first half on the 1900's.
By saying that Jehovah's Witnesses can only have a relationship with their Saviour if they are united with the Slave Class, Rutherford transferred tremendous power to himself and the following leaders of the Watchtower Organization, effectively creating the structure necessary for (and indicative of) a cult.
Originally published June 2005. Latest update June 2017.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023