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A lot of people don't consider JWs to be Christian, usually for the reason of their view on the Kingdom of Jesus to be a kingdom here on Earth. I respect the guidelines of this site, so I do not wish to discuss who is considered Christian and who isn't. I'm only curious about how they view John 18:36 and similar statements. Despite Jesus explicitly stating multiple times, that Heaven is something totally different from what we can perceive, and is not from this world, they still believe the following two views, which very few if any Christian denominations accept:

  • The number of people admitted into the "real Heaven" is limited, and already filled.
  • All the rest have only a chance in the best case to live here in an earthly utopian kingdom, which is not eternal.

What biblical basis do they have for it? Their door-to-door preachers I had seen, neither could say anything except a small handful of Bible verses they memorized, but nothing in this topic. I don't have the occasion (neither do I have the intention) to start lengthy debates with some of their better qualified members, this is why I'm asking here.

It would be good if someone here was a Jehovah's Witness, who could tell their view on this question. It might even be possible that the two points I listed come from a misunderstanding and they don't really have those views, could someone more knowledgeable clear this?

Of course, you don't have to be a a JW to post an answer :)

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The limited number of people in heaven thing comes from the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation. I'm not a JW, so I wouldn't be able to answer the objection on John 18:36 –  Affable Geek Mar 28 '12 at 19:53
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@Affable Geek: those 144000 are only the representants of the tribes of Israel, and right after that come countless others from all the nations of the world. But yes, that may be a starting point for JW. –  vsz Mar 28 '12 at 19:59
    
This page shows the verse in the JW Bible (New World Translation). –  Wikis Mar 28 '12 at 20:14
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Agreed that they represent the tribes of Israel - but JWs believe they are the "true Israel." Wiki Linky and Debunker linky and primary source –  Affable Geek Mar 28 '12 at 20:23
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@AffableGeek: then it is logical to ask them to which tribe they belong, since the 144K are literally divided into twelve tribes. –  Wikis Mar 28 '12 at 21:22

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is actually a verse that Witnesses would know well, and quote often. It is on the basis of this verse that Witnesses avoid politics (and, generally, careers which would result in fame). Witnesses do not vote; do not join political campaigns; do not donate to political causes; and do not join political parties. This is all on the basis of John 18:36:

Jesus answered: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”

To the Witnesses, Christ's “Kingdom” is not a simple synonym for “Heaven”. Furthermore, “this world” is not a synonym for “planet Earth” or “the physical universe”. In other words, the verse you reference has, to the Witnesses, very little relevance to the beliefs you’re asking about.

“This world” is the current political/social system. Witnesses try to avoid being caught up in it much, as explained above.

“The Kingdom” is God’s system, implying a structured rulership over subjects, living here on Earth in the “new system”. That Kingdom is, in fact, eternal. I don’t know where you got the idea that it isn’t. (It will be briefly interrupted 1,000 years in, but after that it’ll go on eternally.)

Living on Earth is not supposed to be a second-best. It is, in fact, the original plan for humanity. The few who go to heaven to be kings of the Kingdom (“joint heirs with Christ”) are the anomaly.

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While I personally don't agree with this viewpoint, I consider this to be a very good explanation, and a perfect, logical answer. It all makes sense now, thanks. –  vsz Mar 29 '12 at 2:33
    
@vsz. Thanks. I don't agree with it either: I'm an ex-Witness atheist. But it does, taken on its own terms, make sense. –  TRiG Mar 29 '12 at 9:20

It should be understood that this is part of God’s plan for the paradise earth.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together:... And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9

As for righteous men inhabiting the earth,

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

Note that it uses the word inherit (gain property when someone is no more). Who shall be no more?

But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
Proverbs 2:22

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Psalm 37:9

As for JWs not joining political parties, you should know that in many nations, saluting and showing respect to flags, coats of arms, and the like is in violation of the second commandment given to Moses, which was interestingly added after the first one. Compare: What’s the point of the second commandment? I gave an answer there which earned me 2 upvotes, but I hope it does more than that this time.

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When Jesus talked about a "kingdom", he talked about the same kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2:44: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed..., it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." When Daniel says "all these kingdoms", he is referring to the man-made kingdoms he just described, as pictured by that multi-substance statue. These man-made kingdoms, or governments, as we call them today, consisted of a head of state and it's supporting government structure. When Daniel prophecied that these would be "broken in pieces" and be replaced by a kingdom set up by the "God of heaven", it is fair to assume that God's kingdom would also have a head of state (Jesus) and a supporting government structure run by ministers of various government departments/offices.(144,000) Otherwise it would not be a true replacement.

So, when Jesus told Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world: then would my servants fight,...", he basically told Pilate, that he is not a king of a man-made government, "... but now is my kingdom not from hence (this world)." When Jesus promised his apostles that he would prepare a place for them (John 14:2), he obviously meant heaven, because that's where he went after he died on earth. And that's where the seat of his government or kingdom is located.

So, that's how JWs understand John 18:36.

In regards to your other comments: You are right about our belief that only a limited number (144,000 - Rev. 7:4; 14:1) will be in heaven to form that government. And that makes sense, because they have to rule over someone. That's where the earth and mankind comes in. We don't view this as "only a chance in the best case". There is nothing wrong with being human. Jehovah put a lot of thought into creating this earth for humans to enjoy. There were already millions of angels in heaven before Adam and Eve were created. If God wanted more angels in heaven, he could've created more. But He chose to create something new: humans. He didn't put them into a "utopian kingdom", as you put it, but it was called a paradise. This paradise was not a state of mind control, where man was to blindly follow orders, without the ability to reason. Jehovah also dignified man by giving him privacy and the freedom to choose. This paradise was to be eternal. Only by willfully doing wrong, would that eternity be lost. And it was lost, for Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:16,17).

It is, again, reasonable to conclude, though, that eternity for mankind is not lost forever. As an illustration: Would you spend a lot of time and thought to build a sail boat and never put it out to sea? Well, the full potential of this created earth has never been realised, and if it never would be, God's purpose could be called a failure. And why should He let that happen.

So, JWs believe that both heaven and earth are inhabited by beings created by God. They are different, but both are created in God's image, with their own specific eternal purpose.

Hope this helps a bit.

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