[cont...] At this point David and I had developed a great rapport. Not everything we talked about was "Theology"
I think its important to develop some sort of friendship along the way, in doing so, he was able to relax and not be on guard the entire time. I asked him about his family, why he was a Jehovah's Witness. I wanted him to focus on HIS beliefs, not necessarily the belief system he was simply repeating to me.
For example, whenever he told me what he believed in any area of doctrine, I would reply in different ways "is that what YOU believe?"
Its a simple reply, and something that might sound obscure, but there was a few instances where he was taken back by that question. I think that was the first time he realized that he was simply repeating information without thinking WHY.
Our discussion then circled back to a discussion on Salvation.
[me] One of the things that stood out to me as you were talking was the distinction you place on "Heavenly" and "Earthly" salvation. Do you believe those to be separate places? As if they are geographic differences in Gods Kingdom?
[Daivd] Well, yes.. When you look at Revelation 7 there are two classes of people. The 144,000 Anointed class of Christians , and in a separate vision a "Great Crowd" of earthly followers.
[me] ok, but what do YOU believe?
[David] .......honestly, I don't know what to think. I thought I did, but after talking about how to interpret verses in their context, I really cant justify why the 144k should be read literally, then those same 144k should be understood to be "Symbolic Israel" , but I do see that there is a separation between the 144k and the great crowd.
[me] I think that's fair, Just so I understand your position. You see two separate classes of Salvation in Revelation 7 because the writer says "AFTER THESE THINGS I LOOKED" in verse 9?
[David] Yes that's would indicate a separate vision and a separate people.
[me] you know what, I actually agree with you here. But saying they are a separate people and separate vision is a lot different then saying they are a separate class of salvation ON EARTH... wouldn't you agree?
[David] I guess so...
[me] Ok lets look at this "Great Crowd" are you saying that anytime you see the word "Great Crowd" this is an EARTHLY Class of salvation?
[Daivd] Well yes...
[Me] Would you mind reading Revelation 19:1 for me?
[David] Reading from the NWT: "After this I heard what seemed to be a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: “Praise Jah! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God, because his judgments are true and righteous."
[At this point I just allowed David to soak in what he just read in dead silence for 1 minute....]
[me] IF you don't mind David, I would like to tell you what I believe about Salvation, and at the same time make sense out of this verse showing the Great crowd in heaven.
[David] Ok I am going to write this down and do some research...but go ahead....
[me] I don't believe there is a reason to separate Heaven and Earth when it relates to Salvation. Where you draw a distinction, I don't. I believe in the future, heaven will be earth.
[David] [David laughs.....]
[me] Wait a second...hear me out.... How do you define "Heaven" in the first place? Do you believe its a place where people float on clouds playing harps or something like the renaissance paintings? lol
[David] well..technically its anywhere that Jehovah resides.
[me] Perfect, and when you read in Genesis about Adam and Eve, Jehovah resided IN THE GARDEN didn't he?
[David] well yeah...
[me] ok, well... cant we say that since Jehovah resided On the Earth and dwelt with Adam and Eve in the garden, that the earth would be apart of Gods Kingdom? Or in other words...Heaven?
See, I believe that the earth will be restored just the way it was from the beginning. Read Revelation 21.. it says "The TENT of God will reside with man [on earth]"
now this is perfectly consistent with what Jesus said "Let you will be done on earth as it is in heaven" Additionally when you read Matthew 5, Jesus does not draw a distinction between the two. In fact, he says "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of HEAVEN" and immediately after this.. "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the EARTH"
When you put it all together, The evidence shows that the "Great Crowd" although separate in their distinctions and roles compared to the 144k in Gods Kingdom are still apart of Heaven. In fact, Gods kingdom is all encompassing. Earth will be made new and restored into a place where God again resides...ergo heaven.
[Daivd] you know I have to be honest, I have never herd any Christian articulate this before. I have never herd it put this way. What your saying seems consistent with Scripture but honestly I would have to read through everything we just read.
[Me] And you know what, that's fine. I appreciate your honesty, the last thing I would want is for you just to accept what I am saying. These are just conclusions I have drawn from reading the scriptures and using that method of interpretation.
Actually, in Acts 17 Paul went to the Bereans and they didn't just accept what he said either, they studied the scriptures to be sure of those things. and were commended for it.
*****The last leg of our conversation ended with an in depth discussion on the Trinity, the toughest subject to tackle by far, but we went for it, lol. In my experience, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christians alike misrepresent or misunderstand the doctrine all together. My goal in these discussions is to first get an understanding of what the JW believes about the deity of Jesus FIRST. I never treat all JW's alike. I will conclude this discussion in part 4