Who are Sons of God?

This supplement explores scriptures that some apply exclusively to those chosen by God to reign with Christ in heaven, and shows how these apply also to Christians who will be blessed with life in the new earth. The first passage considered refers to "baptism into his death." Does this baptism mean giving up life as a human on earth?

Romans 6:2-11 says “Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it? Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be [united with him in the likeness] of his resurrection; because we know that our old self was impaled with him, that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. For he who has died has been acquitted [or freed] from his sin. Moreover, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more. For the death that he died, he died with reference to sin once for all time; but the life that he lives, he lives with reference to God. Likewise also you: reckon yourselves to be dead indeed with reference to sin but living with reference to God by Christ Jesus.”

Paul says, "If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with him." Did he mean live in heaven? Yes, for himself and those whom he was directly addressing; but he was not meaning that particularly and exclusively. His emphasis is on the fact of being alive, and being with him in a spiritual sense, not the physical location. Christ promised the evildoer who died alongside him, "You will be with me in Paradise," that is, the future earthly Paradise. In the same way all those blessed with life on earth will live "with" him. Christ will not need to bodily move to earth, nor will they have to move to heaven, to do so. See John 17:20-23.

What about the phrases "all of us who were baptised into his death . . . have become united with him in the likeness of his death . . . [and] we shall also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection"? Some interpret this as connected to the mechanics of his death and resurrection, that is, from human form to spirit form, so they conclude that this does not apply to Christians who will live as humans on earth. Is that what Paul meant?

First, we note that the first two phrases are in the past tense; he says his fellow anointed ones have already become united with Christ in the likeness of his death. Yet they were still alive in the flesh. So this must have a figurative or spiritual meaning. What was the "likeness" of Christ's death? He "died with reference to sin," Paul says. Then he applies it: "likewise also you: reckon yourselves dead with reference to sin." All who are redeemed by Christ should feel this way, and live accordingly. Further, Christ died faithful to God. This was in fact the fundamental purpose of his death; had he been unfaithful, his death would have accomplished nothing. Christian baptism is in fact a corresponding pledge of faithfulness unto death, so in that way also all Christians are "baptised into his death." We are saying that we will follow him faithfully even into death. We are also saying that we accept Christ's death as our own, that he died in our stead as our ransom, "our old self was impaled with him," which means we are "freed from sin," as verse 7 says. We "walk in a newness of life" now, in this life. This is independent of where God will have us live later. It is true that Christ also gave up his earthly life to become a spirit being, as will those taken to heaven, but nothing Paul says here obligates us to think he was limiting his words to that meaning, or even had that in mind.

The third phrase is in the future tense: "we shall be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection." What was the "likeness" of Christ's resurrection? It was to life without end, glorified by God. The location of his subsequent abiding place, and the substance of his body, are not the key elements. All who finally attain eternal life, wherever it may be, can at that time be said to have been "resurrected" (fully raised up from death to life) in a similar way. That is even true of persons who never die physically, passing through Armageddon alive into the Millennium. We are already "declared righteous," judged as freed of condemnation by having our sin covered, but during the Millennium we will "come to life" in the perfect sense. So again, nothing Paul says here forces us to think he was addressing only the heavenly calling, excluding all the others who are also walking in a newness of life through Christ. —Rev 20:4b, 5, Romans 5:8-10. See also Colossians 3:1-11.

Sons of Abraham

In Genesis 22:17, 18 Jehovah swore to Abraham: “I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” This oath is known as the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Jews believed that they were the privileged Seed of Abraham, and as such they would dominate the world and all the nations would have to come to them for blessings. Did not their great increase in numbers prove the prophecy true? Nehemiah recounts their early success: “Their sons you made as many as the stars of the heavens. Then you brought them into the land that you had promised to their forefathers that they should enter to take possession.” (Nehemiah 9:22-25; see also Deuteronomy 10:22, Hebrews 11:12) But it was not to be fulfilled in them. As Nehemiah continues, “They became disobedient and rebelled against you and kept casting your law behind their back, and your own prophets they killed, who bore witness against them to bring them back to you; and they went on committing acts of great disrespect. . . they kept giving a stubborn shoulder, and their neck they hardened, and they did not listen.” —9:26, 29.

Finally, when the leaders of the nation conspired to murder Jesus, the Messiah, the Chosen One to whom all prophecies pointed, Jesus said: “the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you [the pronoun is plural in the original language] and given to a nation producing its fruits.” The “nation” would be an organized people, whose “fruits” would be faithfulness and obedience like Abraham’s. They would be his true sons in having faith like his. —Matthew 21:43.

The rejection of Israel did not make the covenant with Abraham fail. Paul the apostle explains that the Seed of Abraham was not the nation of Israel, as they thought, but just one man: Jesus the Christ himself. He points out that the word “seed” is singular, not plural (in English it can be either), and says “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.” —Galatians 3:16.

So it was Jesus who would be multiplied “like the stars” and like the “grains of sand.” The number of natural Israelites is irrelevant. But how did Jesus become father to multitudes? He never even married! Or did he?

The word “father” actually means “life-giver”. As mankind’s redeemer Jesus is in fact the preeminent life-giver! And his sons are not given a short, mortal, dying lifespan, but endless, everlasting life, or immortality. “In Adam all are dying . . . in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) The first ones he brought to life were those chosen by God to rule with him. As explained in chapter 6, these are the faithful “Israel of God,” the ones who do fulfill that purpose to be a “kingdom of priests,” to the blessing of the rest of appreciative mankind. They are that nation producing the Kingdom fruits.

But it does not end there; Israel is just one nation. Jehovah had made an earlier oath to Abraham, which the covenant of the Seed built on, so that they are really one covenant. At Genesis 17:1-5 we read: “Jehovah appeared to Abram and said to him: ‘I am God Almighty. Walk before me and prove yourself faultless. And I will give my covenant between me and you, that I may multiply you very, very much.’ At this Abram fell upon his face, and God continued to speak with him, saying: ‘As for me, look! my covenant is with you, and you will certainly become a father of a crowd of nations. And your name will not be called Abram anymore, and your name must become Abraham, because a father of a crowd of nations I will make you.’”

At Romans 4:16-18, Paul puts these two covenants together: “On this account it was as a result of faith, that it might be according to undeserved kindness, in order for the promise to be sure to all his seed, not only to that which adheres to the Law, but also to that which adheres to the faith of Abraham. (He is the father of us all, just as it is written: ‘I have appointed you a father of many nations.’) This was in the sight of the One in whom he had faith, even of God, who makes the dead alive and calls the things that are not as though they were. Although beyond hope, yet based on hope he had faith, that he might become the father of many nations in accord with what had been said: ‘So your seed will be.’” So it would be through his Seed that Abraham would become “father to many nations.” His natural descendants through other sons do not fulfill the covenant.

The fulfillment of this begins with the non-Jews who were chosen to be part of the true Israel, replacing natural Jews who refused the privilege. These Gentiles of many nations were declared by God to be sons of Abraham, as natural Jews prided themselves to be. But the fulfillment cannot end there; if it did, then we would have to say that only the true Israel is blessed in the Seed of Abraham. Israel is just one nation, and Revelation 7:4 reveals that select group to be limited to “144,000”, just a tiny fraction of mankind. The covenant explicitly says “by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” Or as Peter quoted it, “in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Acts 3:25) And Paul quotes it as “By means of you all the nations will be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8) The end result and purpose of this covenant is not merely the establishment of a special group, but the blessing of all mankind. That is, all who respond to the opportunity, hence the expression in the original Hebrew, “bless themselves.”

In the Hebrew scriptures the natural nation of Israel was frequently likened to a wife to God. At the time, her fruitfulness, her sons, were the people of Israel itself, not other nations. In the fulfillment, the true Israel is said to be the “bride” of Christ. No specific children of their union is mentioned, but the covenant itself names them. The special nation was called to be kings and priests, not over themselves, but for the benefit of “all the nations.” Not to subjugate and exploit them, but to bless them. Or as Revelation 7:16, 17 puts it, “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.” This is the blessing the Seed gives the nations: restoration as sons of God to endless life in Paradise. —see also Psalms 45:16.

In this way, then, Abraham becomes father to all these nations. Abraham is father to the Seed, Jesus; Jesus gives life to a select group, who becomes like a wife to him; together they aid the many nations to life. The Seed is multiplied “like the stars of the heavens” (one could be tempted to say, now that we know that the first ones given life would actually live in heaven, that this expression applies particularly to them) and “like the grains of sand on the seashore” (which would be appropriate for the countless multitude that would gain life on a Paradise Earth.) —see Matthew 13:43, Revelation 7:9.

If Abraham is our father, then of course we are his sons. So when Paul says (Galatians 3:7) "Surely you know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are the sons of Abraham," he was not excluding the nations that would be blessed by or in his Seed. Rather, he goes on in verse 8 and 9 to explicitly include them: “Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham.” Although the application begins with the Gentiles called to be true Israelites, it certainly does not end with them. All the nations, as meant in the original covenant, would "adhere to faith" like Abraham did, and be viewed as his sons spiritually. That is the only way they can be blessed. Any explanation that excludes them ignores the very intent of the covenant!

Born Again

Jesus was a son of Abraham by natural descent, but he is also Son of God; therefore Abraham represents God. So when Christ brings us to life as sons of Abraham, we become sons of God, not merely his friends or acquaintances. God no longer sees us as dying sons of Adam; he sees us as sons of a new Father, Jesus. He declares us righteous, freed of condemnation. This change is so great that it is like being born again, coming to life anew.

Jesus was begotten uniquely as the first of all creation, long before the world was. Then when Jehovah says, "You are my Son, I, today, have become your Father" (Psalms 2:7) Paul explains at Acts 13:33 that that was fulfilled when Jehovah raised Jesus up from the dead. That day He again became Life-giver (Father) to Jesus.

Jesus was not a son of Adam, so there was never any legal barrier to his being moved from life in the flesh as a human to life as a spirit Son of God in heaven. There was no need to "restore" such a right, because he never lost it. He was always Jehovah's spiritual Son, and did not need to be "brought forth" (symbolically reborn) as such. So Jesus was not “born again” at his baptism. But, he did later need to be literally given life again by resurrection. He was literally reborn as a spirit Son at that time, as Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:3, 4 directly say. Insofar as his baptism was a symbol of his future death and resurrection, it could be seen as being a symbol of that rebirth, but it was not in itself a rebirth. The holy spirit that came down on Jesus' after his baptism was an anointing, foreshadowed in natural Israel by the anointing oils poured upon the head of every king-designate and every new high priest. Those anointings did not make those persons sons of God nor give them any kind of rebirth; they gave them God's blessing and authority to act. So the choosing, or anointing, is not the same as the rebirth.

Unlike Jesus, Christians who would be anointed for rulership and priesthood do have to first be born again, because they are natural sons of Adam, and "in Adam all are dying." At valid baptism, God declares them righteous: they pass over judicially from death (in Adam) to life (in Christ, their new Father); they are "born again." After that they may be chosen and anointed, if God so desires. The declaration of righteousness alone does not inherently point them to a future as literal spirit creatures; that comes with the anointing, which has associated with it a covenant Christ makes particularly with them. (Luke 22:29, 30) They are born again, not as spirit sons of God, but as spiritual sons of God. There is a difference. Read John 3:3-16 with this in mind, and you will see this is what it means:

John 3:3-16: Jesus said to him [Nicodemus]: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel because I told you, you people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone that has been born from the spirit.” In answer Nicodemus said to him: “How can these things come about?” In answer Jesus said to him: “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? Most truly I say to you, What we know we speak and what we have seen we bear witness of, but you people do not receive the witness we give. If I have told you earthly things and yet you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”
“Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Note the points marked with emphasis above. Who will "see" and "enter" the kingdom? Could anyone inherit the kingdom and at the same time never see or enter it? Of course not. Yet Jesus himself clearly says that the "sheep" he puts on his right hand "inherit" the Kingdom. They do this by inhabiting the Paradise Earth that Kingdom rule produces. (Matthew 25:34) And here Jesus states unequivocally that to see and enter the Kingdom, they must be born again! Obviously this would have a more direct application to those who see and enter the Kingdom in heavenly glory; but it should not be read to exclude the application to the rest of saved mankind.

Notice also that Jesus himself says that he was talking about earthly things, which should not have been beyond Nicodemus' comprehension. The Hebrew scriptures that Nicodemus knew barely hint at being relocated to heaven to live in a spirit body; when Jesus introduced that hope to his disciples, they had a hard time understanding him, because it was something they had never heard of before. (John 14:3-5) Nicodemus, despite being a well-educated man, was certainly unaware of such a possibility. But as Jesus says here, he was not talking about heavenly things.

What about the words “what has been born from the spirit is spirit”? Does that not point to becoming a spirit in body, like an angel? That will be true, in due time, of those so chosen. But the application is now; one may be born of the spirit now, then go on to live many years as an imperfect human in the flesh, before dying and being raised up to live in a new body, which may be of spirit if God so wills. Yet Jesus did not say "what has been born of the spirit is to be spirit," he said it is spirit.

It then follows that to be "spirit" while still in the flesh means to be 'spiritual', or recognized by God as restored to family relationship with Him, in other words, accepted as a son. It simply contrasts to one's previous condition of 'flesh', meaning, of the fallen flesh and subject to its condemnation. Paul elaborates on this distinction at length in Romans chapter 8:

Romans 8:5-11: “For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. But if Christ is in union with you, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.”

All of Paul's words are in the present tense, so he is not talking about a future life in a spirit body. The entire application is to one's present life as a Christian, and applies directly to all Christians. The only sentence with a verb in the future tense says that God "will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you." Since our mortal body is the one we have now, this also does not refer to a future in heaven. It means that God sees us as alive rather than mortal, that is, as having a future rather than perishing in sin. The word "mortal" does not mean merely able to die, as some teach, but certain to die, dying, headed inexorably to death.1 So Paul says "the body indeed is dead on account of sin." Not that we are literally dead— that would be news indeed— but that we are inevitably dead due to sin. It is certain, as good as done. Unless we are reborn.

Spiritually-minded persons puzzle the worldly, fleshly minded man. They think our viewpoint is otherworldly, even nonsensical, certainly not pragmatic and practical. A fleshly person "does what it takes," even lie, steal and kill, to protect and advance himself and his own. To such a person, we are like the wind. As Jesus said, they do not know where we are coming from, and they have no concept of where we are going (and usually don't much care). Paul repeats that fact at 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15: “A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” Note that the "spiritual" man is not an angel. He is still human, but he has been "born of the spirit." He is a "child" (or son) of God, as proven by his behavior. John says “Everyone who has been born from God does not carry on sin, because His [reproductive] seed remains in such one, and he cannot practice sin, because he has been born from God. The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. . . We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love remains in death.” —1 John 3:9, 10, 14; see also Hebrews 12:7-9.

The Law Covenant and the new covenant

At the mountain in the wilderness Jehovah concluded a covenant with the natural descendents of Abraham through Jacob his grandson. This covenant established them as a nation, so it had some 600 laws to regulate both their society and worship. At Exodus 19:5, 6 we read its fundamental purpose: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” True priests are not appointed to serve themselves; their purpose is to assist others into proper relationship with God. And good kings do not rule to enrich and glorify themselves, they serve to organize and guide the people to peace and prosperity for all. This is God's purpose for having a chosen people.

If they had been faithful to it, the Law covenant would have served them as a "tutor leading to Christ," who in turn would bring them to the fulfillment of the covenant's purpose. (Galatians 3:24, 25) But as mentioned before, they were not faithful; so Jehovah said (at Jeremiah 31:31, 32) “There are days coming . . . and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, which covenant of mine they themselves broke . . . this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days . . . I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.”

When Christ came, he established this new covenant with those few who put faith in him. Paul explains this at length in his letter to the Hebrews. In outline: Just as the Law covenant made natural Israel God's chosen nation, the new covenant establishes the true Israel, which will be a blessing to all mankind as a kingdom of priests. (This topic was discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6 at the subhead Identifying God's Holy nation.) The key point here is this: the new covenant does not have as its purpose merely the calling of chosen ones to spirit life in heavenly glory. Rather, it is the foundation of their ruling and purifying work in the Millennium. The Millennium, the blessing of the nations, is its purpose.

In Galatians chapter 3, after saying that 'all who adhere to faith are sons of Abraham' and 'the seed is one, the Christ' and 'the Law was our tutor leading to Christ,' Paul continues (verses 26-29): “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed [offspring], heirs with reference to a promise.”

Paul was directly addressing Christians who were anointed to rule. The Law had been a tutor only for those who had been subject to it, Christians of Jewish heritage; Paul was in context trying to persuade them that they were free of that Law and were now in a new relationship with God through Christ. Gentiles who read his letter would have to discern those parts that applied to them, while learning from those comments that did not. Today, Christians who are not chosen to be rulers might read this and say, "none of this applies to me." But that would be incorrect. Actually all of it does, just in a modestly different way than to anointed ones. No one has been bound by the Law covenant for almost two thousand years, so in that regard we need take only the basic lesson of not trying to worship God by 'slaving for weak and beggarly things, scrupulously observing days and months and seasons.' (4:9, 10) As we have by now thoroughly pointed out, we "are all, in fact, sons of God through [our] faith in Christ Jesus." We are all "baptized into Christ," which again does not mean we have to go to heaven. It just means his death is ours, as to sin. We "put on Christ" when we take the name "Christian" (and it cannot be just a "put on".) We "are all one," united in Christ; we are not divided by the racial, social or national barriers of the world we came out of. We most certainly do "belong to Christ," for he bought us with his blood. If we do not belong to him, we are yet in our sins. Therefore, we really are "Abraham's seed," that is, offspring, sons, and yes we are all "heirs with reference to a promise." We "inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the founding of the world," which comes from that promise made so long ago to Abraham, the faithful friend of God.

The Spirit of Adoption

A passage that we can now explore with this understanding is the remainder of Romans 8, particularly verses 12 through 23. It reads: “So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; for if you live in accord with the flesh you are sure to die; but if you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live. For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: "Abba, Father!" The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together. Consequently I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now. Not only that, but we ourselves also who have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit, yes, we ourselves groan within ourselves, while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.”

It goes without saying that all Christians must "put the practices of the body to death by the spirit"; if we did not, we "are sure to die." Are we led by God's spirit? Surely we must be, or we are dead. Then we are God's sons, Paul says. Who would dare say he was mistaken? We have already heard John's comment on that, how to tell who are "children of God" and not children of the Devil. There is no third party to whom we can be children. It is either one or the other. In flesh we are sons of Adam, who by following Satan proved to be his 'son' in a spiritual sense. But by faith we accept Christ as our new father and receive, not a spirit of slavery (which Satan gives) but a "spirit of adoption as sons." Our heart cries out in gladness to our new Father, "Abba!", which means "Papa!" Indeed, His spirit bears witness with our spirit (or inward feelings) that we are God's children. This is not limited to a mere 144,000 humans.

If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God (we inherit all the blessings he promises to his own), and "joint heirs with Christ." Yes, Paul was writing directly to persons who expected to reign alongside Christ as kings. They inherit that glory together with Christ. But Christ "inherits" his Kingdom; we on Earth will "inherit" the same kingdom, not as rulers, but as blessed subjects. So we inherit with him, which makes us "joint heirs" in that manner. We have to prove true under trial ("suffer") and will be glorified (honored) as faithful ones in the Paradise. The trials we experience now will seem as nothing compared to the wonders we will see in the new world. All of mankind ("creation") who have faith in these things are eagerly looking forward to the "revealing" of the sons of God. Even those who are anointed are looking forward to that! They are revealed when they ride forth as kings with Christ to destroy Satan's wicked system. (Revelation 19:11-15) Those they are rescuing are also revealed at that time as being sons of God, not as gloriously of course, but certainly to the surprise of the world who despised them and considered them as of no account.

For all creation (all mankind) was subjected to the futility of enslavement to corruption (that is, death, which was not the kind of existence we were originally created for; our death is so useless, such a waste) which we ourselves did not choose, but was put on us when Adam was condemned. But now by Christ we have hope— a sure hope, an expectation— that all creation will be set free to again have the glorious freedom of the children of God. Until that day, all creation (and Paul includes himself and his fellow anointed ones in this) keeps on groaning together and being in pain together. Though we have the "firstfruits"— the advance token of the inheritance to come, the spirit that reassures us that we are adopted— we groan within ourselves, as we "earnestly wait for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom."

That last comment may seem puzzling, since Paul has already said they are God's sons and have the "spirit of adoption." So why does he now say they are waiting for adoption? The last phrase defines what he means: "the release from our bodies by ransom." Speaking specifically to persons who were anointed, Paul said at 2 Corinthians 5:1-5: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For in this dwelling house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven, so that, having really put it on, we shall not be found naked. In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down; because we want, not to put it off, but to put on the other, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now he that produced us for this very thing is God, who gave us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit.”

The spirit of adoption, then, is a "token" of what is to come. It is like having signed adoption papers, but we have not yet moved into our new parent's house. How could this apply to Christians who are not anointed? Some say it simply does not; such are just observers. But in fact it does, just differently. We also know God as our Father, we also feel adopted as sons, we also are led by spirit. All this is a token of our inheritance in the new earth, when we shall be released finally from "the body undergoing this death." (Romans 7:24) Then what is mortal (dying) will be swallowed up by life, life that need never end.

Who are Sons of Jerusalem?

Galatians chapter 4 is addressed directly to those Christians who had been under the Law and thought of themselves as sons of Abraham literally. Paul argues in verses 21-31 that the natural Jews, although descendants of Abraham, are spiritually like his son Ishmael through the servant woman Hagar, while those who are true Israelites, born by God's spirit, are like Isaac, whom Sarah bore due to God's power. He is trying to help them see that as anointed Christians they are in a new relationship with God.

He says these two women, Hagar and Sarah, mean two covenants: the first was the Law, given at the mountain in Arabia, that established the nation later centered in earthly Jerusalem. Because it failed to recognise the Messiah, that nation remained "in slavery" under the Law that condemned its subjects as sinners. (Galatians 2:16, 3:13, Hebrews 10:1-4) The second covenant was given to those who did put faith in Christ. Paul does not name it but it is clearly parallel to and supplants the Law, so it must be the new covenant that establishes the true Israel of God. (Hebrews 8:6-13) It cannot be the covenant with Abraham, because that covenant underlies both later covenants, and it does not establish any nation; it merely promises a conquering Seed through whom all nations would be blessed.

Note that he says Hagar represents three things: a covenant (verse 24), a mountain in Arabia, and the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. These are not three distinct things, but mean one thing: the nation of natural Israel. The Jews regarded their nationality/ethnicity/community as their "mother." This relationship of citizens to community is from scripture: for example, Paul himself quotes Isaiah 54:1 (verse 27), which speaks of Israel as a woman, a mother. The Jews understood this as fulfilled in their restoration from exile in Babylon: she "gave birth" when they were set free and returned to their land. Greater glory was yet to come, but they did not know when or how. Paul says it is being fulfilled in anointed Christians, set free and prospering spiritually. The metaphor of a nation as a mother to its citizens is familiar even today, as is the metonymy of the capital for the whole nation. So "Jerusalem" was like a mother of her people; they are "her children."

Sarah, the free woman, would then represent the "mother" of the true Israelites. In verse 24, Paul directly states that both women represent covenants. Then in verse 26, after saying Hagar corresponds to the "Jerusalem today," he says Sarah means a superior Jerusalem, the "Jerusalem above." What is that Jerusalem?

The earthly Jerusalem had both the king's palace and the temple, so it was the seat of both government and worship. The palace was on Mount Zion, and the temple was on adjacent Mount Moriah. The Jerusalem above would therefore be similar, but greater. At Hebrews 12:22 Paul describes this greater Jerusalem: “You have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels.” Mount Zion represents the seat of rulership, but Paul does not mention a heavenly Mount Moriah. We find out why in Revelation chapter 21, which describes a "New Jerusalem" in great detail. Verse 22 says, “I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is.” The "Jerusalem above" (Galatians 4.20), the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12.22), and the "New Jerusalem" (Revelation 21.2, 9, 10) are all the same place. It represents the entire holy nation chosen by God to glorify Him and to become a blessing to all nations. Anointed Christians are her "sons," just as natural Jews were "sons" of earthly Jerusalem, the earthly nation of Israel. —see also Matthew 8:11, 12 and 13:38, and Acts 3:25.

Nowhere in the Bible are the angels depicted collectively as a wife to God.2 They are not mother to the anointed ones. They do not give them life in any sense; that is from God through Christ. Nor are they in any sense like a capital or a covenant to those who reign with Christ; indeed the anointed ones "will judge angels." (1 Corinthians 6:3) So the "myriads of angels" mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 are their servants standing ready, not their mother!

In Galatians chapter 4 Paul was emphasizing the distinction between natural and spiritual Israelites, and was not discussing the nations they would bless. These nations are not sons of the Jerusalem above in the same way the anointed ones are. Chapter 4 has a narrower focus than chapter 3; although chapter 3 applies first and most directly to anointed true Israelites, we have shown that it includes the nations they bless. Chapter 4's narrower focus should not be taken as proof that chapter 3 must be applied only narrowly as well. In fact, is there any way that the "nations" do fit into the discussion of the Jerusalem above?

Revelation chapters 21 and 22 show how the Jerusalem above relates to the nations blessed on earth. First, the city is shown as "coming down out of heaven from God." Down, out of heaven, means onto the earth. This movement is figurative, meaning the coming of the Kingdom to rule the earth. Chapter 22 then depicts a river flowing down the middle of the broad way inside the city, bordered by trees with "leaves for the curing of the nations." Then verse 14 says, “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.” "Wash their robes" means accepting Christ as Redeemer (7.14). The trees mean healing of the flesh so that death is removed; instead of spiraling down toward the grave, we will be lifted up to bodily perfection (as Adam was originally created) and unending life. To get to the trees, which are inside the city, we "gain entrance to the city by its gates." Those on earth get to walk those streets of gold! But don't be dazzled by visions of heaps of gold paving-stones. This is spiritual gold, and a spiritual walk. Literal gold does not excite a spiritual person; the beauty of all things with God are true gold, meaning superlative splendor and preciousness and value in a spiritual way. Just as the throne and the temple were in ancient Jerusalem, and non-Jews could approach there, it is through this Kingdom arrangement that we will have audience before the King and offer our Father Jehovah organized worship. The "gates" are those famous pearly ones, and we do not have to die to enter them. 21:12 says the twelve gates are named for the twelve tribes of Israel. As you would know by now, this means true Israel, not by the flesh. As kings and priests, they act as intermediaries and helpers, "gates" if you will, in our complete recovery from sin during the Millennium.

So John in Revelation depicts Jerusalem from a different perspective than Paul does in Galatians 4. Paul was looking at it as from citizens to their own nation, while John shows her as wife to Christ, giving life like a mother to all mankind. It is in this way that all the nations will indeed say that "the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother."

A Birth in Heaven

In Revelation chapter 12 we read: “And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars, and she was pregnant. And she cries out in her pains and in her agony to give birth.” Who is this woman?

Let us read on: “And another sign was seen in heaven, and, look! a great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven, and it hurled them down to the earth. And the dragon kept standing before the woman who was about to give birth, that, when she did give birth, it might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.”

From what we know already, we might identify one element of this vision: this son, who is to “shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” But if this is Jesus, why is he shown as a helpless baby needing protection? That was true of him only for a short time around 2 B.C.E., and he was not caught away to God while young. He went back to heaven after dying as a mature and fully tested man. But who else shepherds the nations with an iron rod?

The answer is in Rev 2:26, 27: “To him that conquers and observes my deeds down to the end I will give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd the people with an iron rod so that they will be broken to pieces like clay vessels, the same as I have received from my Father.” So the infant must symbolize the entire group that accomplishes this together. But when and how are they like a baby? And when are they "caught away to God"?

Such a movement would be an enormous change in their status. Since we already know that a resurrection is compared to a birth in scripture, a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 gives an answer: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” So “those who are dead in union with Christ” would be dead for a while—at the time they did not know how very long that would be—but the Lord would one day wake them from their sleep. After that (one could easily assume immediately after that) those who were still alive then would also be taken away to heaven. But notice they are "caught away." If this connects to Revelation 12, other elements should line up. Let us see.

Continuing, Revelation 12 gives clues about when these things happen: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God! And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even in the face of death. On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.’”

War in heaven! Satan defeated and thrown down to the Earth with all his demons! A major turn of events indeed! As we said in chapter 7, “This event would be plainly detectable on earth by a sharp increase in woes. Jesus had said that the signs of the end, most of which are woes, would stand out and be easily seen against the background of history.” This defeat in heaven is the onset of the End Times, and explains why they would be so difficult. Based on an interpretation of Daniel 4, plus the visible evidence, we believe the last days began with World War I in 1914. (See chapter 7 for details.) This, then, also gives us the time for the resurrection to heaven, at the beginning of the last days.

Imagine you have been dead for a thousand years or two. If you were to be raised up near your old home on earth (long gone, of course) it could take a little time for you to get your bearings and get acquainted with the new world around you. A lot of things changed while you were away, but you can recognize some enduring landmarks, and maybe a few other things are similar. But now imagine you are abruptly awakened into a place utterly different from any you have ever seen before. Even your own body is completely different. Such an experience could easily be compared to how a newborn baby must feel. Those who arrive in heaven would surely need some time to get oriented and settled, just like newborns. So it makes sense that the raising up of those "dead in Christ" to heaven is depicted as a birth of an infant in heaven. And Satan aims to interfere, but Michael3 does not let him.

Some have proposed that the infant means the Kingdom itself, its birth meaning its establishment as a rulership. That raises a question: the vision shows the infant as weak and needing protection, while at the exact same time Jesus the King is forcefully defeating the strongest enemy in the universe! So the infant element cannot mean the onset of kingdom power. It is more in keeping with scriptural evidence to say that it means the beginning of the resurrection to heaven, the beginning of the gathering of the scattered seed of the "woman" to their home. This is just as in Isaiah's restoration prophecies, where Israel's return from Babylon is repeatedly likened to a birth.

At that time, these newly resurrected ones are not able to join the war. There is a nurturing and growing period, the "1,260 days." If literal, that would be just shy of 3½ years by our calender.4 This is more likely to be a symbolic interval, since it occurs in heaven; there may not have been any mirror events here. Perhaps it means the entire time between the resurrection and Armageddon, when the glorified ones are ready to ride to battle alongside Christ (Revelation 19). Other interpretations are possible; this interval is not such a key element that it controls the meaning of the other symbols.

To identify the woman now, let us continue with Revelation 12. Verses 13-17 read: “Now when the dragon saw that it was hurled down to the earth, it persecuted the woman that gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent. And the serpent disgorged water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river. But the earth came to the woman’s help, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon disgorged from its mouth. And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”

Ah, “the remaining ones of her seed, who . . . have the work of bearing witness to Jesus”! Christians are her children, so the infant is their brother! It seems that after their brother is born, they remain on earth for a while, under attack, but not without help. Why? Jesus said that during the last days, the good news of the Kingdom would be preached worldwide, and the anointed ones would lead this work. Then at the final manifestation of His power, the last of the chosen ones on earth would be gathered. So the "afterward" in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 did not mean immediately, but at the climax. —See Mark 13:24-27. Revelation 6:9-11 also describes a span of time between the beginning of the resurrection and its finish.

Do we have enough context to identify the woman? Anointed Christians are her children. She is their mother. Paul said their mother is the "Jerusalem above." They cannot have two mothers, so whatever Jerusalem above is, this is a vision of her. Some say it represents the heavenly organization of angels acting as wife to God, giving birth to the infant Kingdom. We have already noted that the Kingdom, as manifest in its King, is no baby at that time. Taking the birth as meaning the beginning of the resurrection to heaven, perhaps we could say that angels play a role in that endeavor that could be likened to a mother. If so, this is the only passage that reveals that; we have no cross-corroboration. And since it is Michael and his angels that defeat Satan, why is she fleeing, if she is in fact those very angels? It does not add up.

We have already given sound reasons to believe that there is just one Jerusalem in heaven, not two or three. The different descriptions are simply different perspectives. So Revelation 12 is one more. Here she is shown as the "mother" of those being raised up. In this role she needs to "flee" into a "wilderness" (a remote location), obviously for the benefit of her baby (the scripture might make it seem that the baby and mother are separated at birth, but that is not likely the intended meaning). Consistent with the other depictions, therefore, she is not the Kingdom as a rulership, but as the 'motherland', the covenant, the purpose, the unifying principle, essentially the same as in Galatians 4. The infant is her "sons" as one, specifically those being resurrected. She "flees" in that these sons, her "infant", are taken to a secluded place to grow up, to be readied for their work as shepherd to the enemy nations.

Looking back at verse 13, how does the dragon Satan "persecute" her after being thrown down to the earth? Is she not by then far away, so that he cannot possibly reach her? Some say he persecutes her by persecuting the remaining ones of her seed on earth. But the vision says he tries to persecute her first, then he turns to persecute the remaining ones. So that explanation is "non-sequitur." The question arises because the order of events in verses 13-17 conflicts with verses 5-9. It appears, then, that verses 5-9 are a quick summary, while verses 13-17 revisit that and provide detail that belongs among the first account. Click the link to compare them and see a possible synthesis.

Scripture References:

John 17:20-23
I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth. Also, I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one. I in union with them and you in union with me, in order that they may be perfected into one, that the world may have the knowledge that you sent me forth and that you loved them just as you loved me.

"Those putting faith in me through their word" would eventually include persons not selected for rulership. All Christians are "one" with Christ, in the same sense that he is one with his Father. Not bodily, but in the sense of loyalty, fidelity, integrity, agreement, cooperation, obedience, and so on.

Revelation 20:4b, 5
. . . And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

The special calling for those who shall reign with Christ is explained in chapter 6 of this book. The parenthetical comment in verse 5 above may seem confusing until you realize that it is meant figuratively, not literally. If it were literal, the kings would reign over a nearly empty planet for a thousand years. Instead, it means that those on earth, although declared righteous by faith and counted as alive (sinless) by God, are not physically free of all imperfection until their healing is complete. This is in fact one purpose of the thousand years.

Romans 5:8-10
God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath. For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Note that the declaration of righteousness and reconciliation occurs at the beginning of the Christian's walk with God, but the salvation comes much later. Here salvation means the ultimate liberation from all vestige of imperfection, which, for those taken to heaven, occurs when they are given their heavenly form; for those on earth, it is when their flesh has been restored to perfection as originally designed by God and their integrity has been proven in the final test.

Colossians 3:1-11
If, however, you were raised up [from death] with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth. For you died [with Christ, as Romans 6:8 says], and your life has been hidden with the Christ in union with God. When the Christ, our life, is made manifest, then you also will be made manifest with him in glory. [or honor, that is, seen by all as approved by God. The glory here does not exclusively mean the form of one's body.]
Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old person [you were] with his practices, and clothe yourselves with the new [person], which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all things and in all.

Read carefully, Paul is here saying the same thing as in Romans chapter 6. The "newness of life" parallels the "new person" you are as a faithful Christian, having stripped off your old ways.

Deuteronomy 10:22
With seventy souls your forefathers went down into Egypt, and now Jehovah your God has constituted you like the stars of the heavens for multitude.

Hebrews 11:12
Hence also from one man, and him as good as dead, there were born children just as the stars of heaven for multitude and as the sands that are by the seaside, innumerable.

Psalms 45:16
In place of your forefathers there will come to be your sons,
Whom you will appoint as princes in all the earth.

Note that this applies foremost to those who will actually rule over the new earth. Any application within governing structures on the ground is secondary.

Matthew 13:43
At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen.

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.

Acts 13:33
God has entirely fulfilled it to us their children in that he resurrected Jesus; even as it is written in the second psalm, “You are my son, I have become your Father this day.”

Romans 1:3, 4
. . . concerning his Son, who sprang from the seed of David [and Abraham] according to the flesh, but who with power was declared God’s Son according to the spirit of holiness by means of resurrection from the dead—yes, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Luke 22:29, 30
I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

That they would reign was not new, they expected that; what was new in this covenant was that they would be relocated from Earth to heaven (although they did not discern right away that he meant that. See John 14:3-5.)

Matthew 25:34
Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”

That "those on his right" are to live on Earth is indicated by the distinction between them and the "brothers" of Christ in verse 40. Spiritually, all Christians are his brothers in a general sense, but the anointed ones as true Israelites are considered more particularly so. Most often the word "brothers" simply addresses the brotherhood of all Christians, who happened to be anointed at the time, but it was not usually intended to exclude later ones not so chosen.

Here at Matthew 25:32-40 one could, judging by verse 37-39, wonder if these "sheep" are yet dedicated Christians at the time they are put on the right hand. If they were, why would they ask that question?

Matthew 12:49, 50: Extending his hand toward his disciples, he said: “Look! My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Matthew 19.14: Jesus, however, said: “Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.”

The word "brother[s]" is rarely used in scripture in a way that is specific only to the anointed. See Galatians 4:28, 31, Hebrews 3:1, Revelation 6:11, 12:10. The usage in Hebrews 2:10-18 is not exclusively for the anointed, according to the explanation propounded herein, nor is 2 Peter 1:10, 11, although the meaning is more specific for them. (Click "Prev" button to return to scripture)

Matthew 25:32-40
And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.” 37 Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?” And in reply the king will say to them, “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.”

One could wonder if these "sheep" are yet dedicated Christians at the time they are put on the right hand. If they were, why would they ask the question they do? This conversation exchange may be just a rhetorical device, not intended to portray the "righteous ones" as actually not knowing who they were helping. But it does make one think.

John 14:3-5
“If I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?”

Hebrews 12:7-9
It is for discipline you are enduring. God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline? But if you are without the discipline of which all have become partakers, you are really illegitimate children, and not sons. Furthermore, we used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect. Shall we not much more subject ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live?

Galatians 3:24, 25
Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.

Galatians 4:9,10
But now that you have come to know God, or rather now that you have come to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years.

Revelation 19:11-15
And I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. His eyes are a fiery flame, and upon his head are many diadems. He has a name written that no one knows but he himself, and he is arrayed with an outer garment sprinkled with blood, and the name he is called is The Word of God. Also, the armies that were in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen. And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron. He treads too the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.

The "armies of heaven clothed in clean white linen" are not just angels. The glorified anointed are included, putting together 19:7, 8: "his wife has prepared herself. Yes, it has been granted to her to be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones" and 2:26, 27: "to him that conquers and observes my deeds down to the end I will give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd the people with an iron rod so that they will be broken to pieces like clay vessels, the same as I have received from my Father."

Galatians 4:21-31, 5:1
Tell me, you who want to be under law, Do you not hear the Law? For example, it is written that Abraham acquired two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; but the one by the servant girl was actually born in the manner of flesh, the other by the free woman through a promise. 24 These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than [those] of her who has the husband.” Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was. But just as then the one born in the manner of flesh began persecuting the one born in the manner of spirit, so also now. Nevertheless, what does the Scripture say? “Drive out the servant girl and her son, for by no means shall the son of the servant girl be an heir with the son of the free woman.” 31 Wherefore, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman. 5:1 For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 2:16, 3:13
. . . knowing as we do that a man is declared righteous, not due to works of law, but only through faith toward Christ Jesus, even we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we may be declared righteous due to faith toward Christ, and not due to works of law, because due to works of law no flesh will be declared righteous.

Galatians 3:13
Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: “Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.”

Hebrews 10:1-4
For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered, because those rendering sacred service who had been cleansed once for all time would have no consciousness of sins anymore? To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away.

Hebrews 8:6-13
Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry [than Moses and the Aaronic priesthood], so that he is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second; for he does find fault with the people when he says: “Look! There are days coming . . . and I will conclude with the house of Israel . . . a new covenant; . . . For this is the covenant that I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days . . . 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. And . . . they will all know me, from the least one to the greatest one of them. For I shall . . . by no means call their sins to mind anymore.” In his saying “a new covenant,” he has made the former one obsolete. Now that which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.

Isaiah 54:1-7
Cry out joyfully, you barren woman that did not give birth! Become cheerful with a joyful outcry and cry shrilly, you that had no childbirth pains, for the sons of the desolated one are more numerous than the sons of the woman with a husbandly owner, Jehovah has said. Make the place of your tent more spacious. And let them stretch out the tent cloths of your grand tabernacle. Do not hold back. Lengthen out your tent cords, and make those tent pins of yours strong. For to the right and to the left you will break forth, and your own offspring will take possession even of nations, and they will inhabit even the desolated cities. Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disappointed. For you will forget even the shame of your time of youth, and the reproach of your continuous widowhood you will remember no more. For your Grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Repurchaser. The God of the whole earth he will be called. For Jehovah called you as if you were a wife left entirely and hurt in spirit, and as a wife of the time of youth who was then rejected, your God has said. For a little moment I left you entirely, but with great mercies I shall collect you together.

Revelation 21.2
I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:9, 10
. . . he spoke with me and said: “Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” So he carried me away in spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

Matthew 8:11, 12
I tell you that many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside.

Matthew 13:38
The field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one.

Acts 3:25
You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God covenanted with your forefathers . . .

Faithless Jews are called "sons of the kingdom" because of their covenant relationship with God, which they lost. The "fine seed," faithful anointed Christians, are also sons of the same kingdom purpose. Being sons of the covenant, of the kingdom, of Jerusalem all carry the same idea.

1 Corinthians 6:3
Do you not know that we shall judge angels?

Revelation 22:1, 2
And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.

Revelation 21.18-21
Now the structure of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the city's wall were adorned with every sort of precious stone: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Also, the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.

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.

Revelation 6:9-11
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: “Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?” 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 white robe being given them means some change in their position. They do not wear those robes while lying dead by the altar. They are raised up to heaven, while others live on to face the foe. Note that they "rest" after getting the robe, which compares with the woman being "fed" after giving birth.

Revelation 12:5-9
(events numbered in order)
[1] The dragon kept standing before the woman who was about to give birth, that, when she did give birth, it might devour her child. And [2] she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And [3] her child was caught away to God and to his throne. And [4] the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days. And [5] war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So [6] down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.

verses 13-17
(events numbered from order given above)
Now when the dragon saw that it was [6] hurled down to the earth, it [7] persecuted (can also be translated "pursued") the woman that gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might [4] fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent. And [8] the serpent disgorged water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river. But [9] the earth came to the woman’s help, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon disgorged from its mouth. And [10] the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.

The logical order is 1, 2, then 3 with 5, then 6 with 7, then 4 with 8 and 9, then 10. That is, Satan lunges as the child is caught away; this starts the war. Then as the war turns against him (6), as he sees himself losing, Satan mounts one last pursuit (7). It is then that (4) the "woman" flees, while (8, 9) the earth (that is, the world of mankind) absorbs the blow. One can only imagine the indigestion such a "river" would cause! It could have manifested in the form of the Great War or the Spanish Influenza, depending on the timing. After that, completely to ground, Satan (10) plots a dark future for the remaining Christians bearing witness to Jesus. This explanation puts event 7 in heaven, so that it is not the same as event 10.

An alternative is that indeed event 7 is on earth and directed at the remaining ones, while the woman herself is long gone to her safe place. Event 8 would then also be on earth and mean a specific attempt to wipe out her sons here. The earth "swallowing up" this flood of persecution would mean that the persecution was thwarted in some way by earthly government ("earth" meaning the relatively stable parts of human society, such as the courts.) If so, then event 10 is just a comment that Satan thereafter takes an "I'll be back!" attitude, and event 4 is inserted out of order merely as a reminder that Satan cannot reach her. This explanation is not as good a fit to the account, but it could work. There was in fact an attempt to completely suppress the anointed ones in 1918, which was overturned in court in 1919. Later there was a veritable flood of totalitarianism (Stalin and Hitler, and wartime patriotism elsewhere) that threatened the survival of true Christianity, but in the Second World War and with court decisions soon after, the "earth" tamped down that extremism somewhat. So actual history might inform the interpretation. This is the present official understanding.

Review for Supplement

What does it mean to "die with Christ"?

Which Christians are not freed of sin?

How will we be "united with Christ in the likeness of his resurrection"?

Who is the Seed of Abraham?

How is the Seed multiplied "like the stars" and "like the grains of sand"?

How are "all the nations" blessed in the Seed?

When was Jesus born again?

How do sons of Adam "pass over from death to life"?

What does it mean to be "born of spirit"?

Why are some Christians anointed?

What was the purpose of the Law covenant, and what is the purpose of the new covenant?

How are all Christians heirs?

How will "all creation" receive the "glorious freedom of the children of God"?

1Footnote on IMMORTALITY:
If you study the Bible's use of the word you will find that to be the basic meaning. For example, Isaiah 51.12: “Who are you that you should be afraid of a mortal man that will die [note, not CAN die], and of a son of mankind that will be rendered as mere green grass?”

Some think "immortal" means "unable to die, utterly impervious to death," and from that premise conclude that "mortal" means merely "able to die," "not immortal." Both are incorrect. The word "immortality" occurs just three times in the Bible ("immortal" not at all), while the words "mortal" and "mortality" are used 50 times, which helps us get the intended sense. The example above is just one of many. So in scripture, immortality simply means not mortal. This is reasonable, since that is literally what "im-mortal" means, after all. Further, Scripture parallels immortality with everlasting life, and for good reason. By definition, everlasting life cannot end. If it did, it would never have been everlasting. So it cannot be different from immortality; they are semantically synonymous. But to qualify that, in Scripture "everlasting" and "forever" do not always mean absolutely unending; they can mean "as long as God wills it." So immortality is always dependent on God's will; it is never independent of ongoing sustenance and protection from him. No one attains equality with God!

Compare Romans 6:22, 23 (“Because you were set free from sin but became slaves to God, you are having your fruit in the way of holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord”) and John 10:27, 28 (“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”) with 1 Corinthians 15:52-54: “The dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. But when this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”

These passages refer to the same people and have the same meaning. "Incorruptible" is parallel to "immortal"; it means that they are no longer subject to ruination. This status is also sustained by God, not inherent or independent of Him.
2Footnote on WOMAN:
This misunderstanding arises from an interpretation of Genesis 3:15, where God says, “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” The "you" here is Satan, as represented by a serpent; his "seed" are his sons, that is, all who follow him in rebellion. The "woman" has a "seed" that Satan would "bruise in the heel." This was fulfilled when Jesus was killed by wicked men. God raised up his Son, so this proved a mere heel wound. Jesus will someday "bruise [Satan] in the head," a mortal blow (he will also destroy Satan's seed.) We are left now to identify this "woman." We know who her seed is—Jesus Christ—but who is she?

The only literal woman in existence at the time God said this was Eve. It would therefore be natural to assume that "the woman" meant that woman. And yes, it can be said that Jesus, as a human, was a descendant of Eve. He was pointedly not a son of Adam, but he did "come to be out of a woman." (Galatians 4:5) Since it was a woman that Satan deceived, it would be a fitting humiliation for him to be defeated by one born of a woman. But there is likely to be a greater woman than Mary meant here. After all, Mary had no more enmity with Satan than many others.

The answer is in the fact that God chose a special nation to represent him on earth, and openly said that it was like a wife to him, with the intent of producing the Christ, that seed. (She had other sons to bear, as discussed elsewhere, but we are focusing on the fulfillment of this prophecy.) Israel was a serious disappointment to God (this is obvious from even a casual read of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all the other prophets) but what Israel represented did succeed. Israel stood for Jehovah's purpose to have a Kingdom arrangement for the defeat of his adversary and the recovery of mankind. This purpose served Jehovah like a woman in producing that Seed. This "woman" is from beginning to end at enmity with Satan and his seed. In the Millennium, this Kingdom becomes the figurative wife of the Son in bringing life back to mankind.

Can we say that the woman is a purpose or an arrangement? Must she not be a composition of living beings? Certainly, that aspect is required: Israel was the sum of her people, and spiritual Israel is made up of Christians chosen for that citizenship. But it was Israel's national purpose that made them like a wife to God, and in the same way it is spiritual Israel's purpose that makes them more than a mere gathering of individuals. The individuals, viewed distinctly, are not the woman. In fact, from that viewpoint, they are the woman's sons. That the purpose could be transferred from one group (the natural Jews) to another (chosen Christians of any nationality) shows that the purpose is the essential element. The heavenly organization of angels have never had this covenant relationship, are not organized under this purpose, and are nowhere in scripture depicted as being like a wife to God. They are always his army or his servants. They do not give birth to the Seed.

One could object that we are saying Christ ends up with God's wife; therefore Christ is either God or he marries his mother. That would be thinking too literally. In ancient tmes, a nation's king was viewed as both the nation's foremost son and at the same time her master, that is, the nation was subject to him like a wife. There was no irony or immorality implied in that at all. And it is exactly like that with Jesus: he is both the Seed of the Kingdom purpose— her foremost Son— and the King of the same Kingdom purpose, her master, so she can be seen as his wife. These are distinct metaphors serving different purposes; they are not intended to be mixed.
3Footnote on MICHAEL:
Although we believe Michael is Jesus in heaven, because he is shown doing what Jesus said He would do, it frankly does not matter if Michael happens to be under Jesus' command rather than Jesus himself. The result is the same.
4Footnote on 3½ times:
Repeated in verse 14 as "a time and times and half a time," or 3½ times (one "time" then being 360 days.) Seven is used most often in scripture in connection with good things, so that we take it to denote spiritual completeness. Six is one short of seven and seems to denote imperfection or ungodliness (hence the number of the beast is "666".) Three is connected with emphasis so 6 three times is very definite ungodliness. Three-and-a-half is half of seven, seven divided by two. Unfortunately, it is not used often enough in scripture to readily permit us to discern its symbolism, although it is somehow related to seven. Here and in Revelation 11 it is connected to times of trial or times requiring endurance, patience. As to whether it maps to a calender interval divisible by 3½, there is no way to prove until the actual fulfillment occurs, so that it can be measured after the fact. Some have attempted to make such identifications, but the events purported to be the fulfillment are much less dramatic in impact than the vision appears to portray, which leaves the matter open for other possibilities. Fortunately, the context remains strongly meaningful without a clear understanding of the number.