Questions From Readers
When does the calling of Christians to a heavenly hope cease?
The Bible does not reveal a precise answer to that question. We do know that the anointing of Jesus’ disciples with a view to their heavenly inheritance began in 33 C.E. (Acts 2:1-4) We also know that after the death of the apostles, genuine anointed Christian “wheat” came to “grow together” with counterfeit Christians, “weeds.” (Matthew 13:24-30) Then, starting in the late 1800’s, anointed Christians were again prominently active. In 1919 “the harvest of the earth,” including the gathering of the final ones of the anointed, began to be reaped.—Revelation 14:15, 16.
From the late 1800’s until 1931, the main thrust of the preaching work was the gathering of the remaining members of the body of Christ. In 1931 the Bible Students took the Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in the November 15, 1933, issue of The Watchtower, the thought was expressed that this unique name was the “denarius” referred to in Jesus’ parable recorded at Matthew 20:1-16. The 12 hours mentioned in the parable were thought to correspond to the 12 years from 1919 to 1931. For many years after that, it was believed that the call to the heavenly Kingdom had ended in 1931 and that those called to be joint heirs with Christ in 1930 and 1931 were “the last” called. (Matthew 20:6-8) However, in 1966 an adjusted understanding of that parable was presented, and it became clear that it had nothing to do with the end of the calling of the anointed.
In 1935 the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-15 was understood to be made up of “other sheep,” Christians with an earthly hope, who would appear on the world scene in “the last days” and who as a group would survive Armageddon. (John 10:16; 2 Timothy 3:1; Revelation 21:3, 4) After that year, the thrust of the disciple-making work turned to the gathering in of the great crowd. Hence, especially after 1966 it was believed that the heavenly call ceased in 1935. This seemed to be confirmed when almost all who were baptized after 1935 felt that they had the earthly hope. Thereafter, any called to the heavenly hope were believed to be replacements for anointed Christians who had proved unfaithful.
Without a doubt, if one of the anointed unrepentantly falls away, Jehovah does call another individual to take his place. (Romans 11:17-22) However, the number of genuine anointed ones who have become unfaithful is likely not large. On the other hand, as time has gone by, some Christians baptized after 1935 have had witness borne to them that they have the heavenly hope. (Romans 8:16, 17) Thus, it appears that we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.
How should a person be viewed who has determined in his heart that he is now anointed and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He should not be judged. The matter is between him and Jehovah. (Romans 14:12) However, genuine anointed Christians do not demand special attention. They do not believe that their being of the anointed gives them special “insights,” beyond what even some experienced members of the great crowd may have. They do not believe that they necessarily have more holy spirit than their companions of the other sheep have; nor do they expect special treatment or claim that their partaking of the emblems places them above the appointed elders in the congregation. They humbly remember that some anointed men in the first century did not qualify to serve as elders or ministerial servants. (1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9; James 3:1) Some anointed Christians were even spiritually weak. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) And sisters, although anointed, did not teach in the congregation.—1 Timothy 2:11, 12.
Hence, anointed Christians along with their other sheep companions strive to stay spiritually strong, cultivating the fruitage of the spirit and working for the peace of the congregation. All Christians, whether anointed or of the other sheep, work hard at preaching the good news and making disciples under the direction of the Governing Body. Anointed Christians are content to do this for as long as it is God’s will that they remain on earth as Jehovah’s servants.