Q: What is the covenant for a kingdom that Jesus made with his disciples? Is it the same as the new covenant? I tried to explain the difference to a bible study recently and was surprised that I don't really understand it myself. How do you explain it? . . .


A: The Watchtower Society explains that the "covenant for a kingdom" is "a special covenant" between only Jesus and the 144,000 who will rule with him in his kingdom; whereas the "new covenant" makes the other one possible. Their "covenant for a kingdom" is also vital in their explanation that only the 144,000 are included in the new covenant and only they are permitted to partake of the emblems at the annual Memorial celebration. Here is what a recent (2006) Watchtower said regarding this:

   6  On the night that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, he told his faithful apostles: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and 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.” (Luke 22:28-30) Jesus here referred to a special covenant that he made with his 144,000 spirit-begotten brothers, who would remain “faithful even to death” and prove themselves ‘conquerors.’—Revelation 2:10; 3:21.
   7  Those of this limited group forgo all hopes of living forever on earth as humans of flesh and blood. They will reign with Christ in heaven, sitting on thrones to judge humankind. (Revelation 20:4, 6) Let us now examine other scriptures that apply only to these anointed ones and that show why the “other sheep” do not partake of the Memorial emblems.—John 10:16. —w06 2/15 p. 22 Gathering Things in Heaven and Things on Earth (Bold mine)

Contrary to what the above Watchtower states, Jesus did not make a "covenant for a kingdom" with his disciples, although he definitely is the mediator of the "new covenant." (Heb. 9:15) According to Luke's account, on the night when Jesus celebrated the last Passover with his disciples and instituted the memorial of his death, he mentioned the new covenant when he took the cup and handed it to them saying: "This cup means the new covenant (διαθήκη, di·a·the′ke) by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf." (Luke 22:20) But when Jesus promised the kingdom to his faithful disciples a moment later, he did not use the word "covenant." Please note: Jesus did not tell his disciples: "I make a covenant with you just as my Father has made a covenant with me."

That the word "covenant" (διαθήκη, di·a·the′ke) does not appear at Luke 22:29 is acknowledged in the New World Translation Reference Bible (Rbi8), for it omits the Scripture from the 33 places where the word covenant does appear in the Greek Scriptures. Here is what it says in the Appendix, page 1584: 


The word di·a·theke occurs 33 times in the Greek text, namely, in Mt 26:28;  Mr 14:24;  Lu 1:72; 22:20;  Ac 3:25; 7:8;  Ro 9:4; 11:27;  1Co 11:25;  2Co 3:6, 14;  Ga 3:15, 17; 4:24;  Eph 2:12; Heb 7:22;  8:6, 8, 9, 9, 10;  9:4, 4, 15, 15, 16, 17, 20;  10:16, 29;  12:24;  13:20;  Re 11:19. The New World Translation renders the Greek word di·a·theke as “covenant” in these 33 places. (Bold added)

The word
di·a·theke occurs in quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures seven times, namely, in Ro 11:27 (from Isa 59:21); Heb 8:8 (from Jer 31:31), 9 (twice, from Jer 31:32), 10 (from Jer 31:33); 9:20 (from Ex 24:8); 10:16 (from Jer 31:33). In these seven quoted texts the Hebrew word in M is ברית (berith, “covenant”), and the Greek word in LXX is διαθήκη (di·a·theke). —New World Translation Reference Bible, pages 1584-1585 7D “Covenant” Used in the Ancient Hebrew Sense. See also The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1985 Edition, Appendix 5C, page 1157.

Note that Luke 22:29 is missing in the above list of scriptures. What is the significance that the word "covenant" does not appear at Luke 22:29? Since Jesus did not use the word, neither did he make a "covenant for a kingdom" with his apostles. Then what did Jesus tell them? In view of his impending arrest and death, Jesus assured his disciples that they had not followed him in vain, but they were sure of receiving the kingdom, just as he had promised them on at least two earlier occasions, such as when he had told them: "Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32; Matt. 19:28) That is why other Translations render Luke 22:29 as saying: "and I assign (give; grant; appoint; bestow) to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom." (ESV) The word for "assign" being dia·ti'the·mi (διατίθεμαι), meaning "to dispose" as in a will.

The word "covenant" in Luke 22:29 (appearing twice) is an interpolation, and it is dishonest because it is inserted with the full knowledge that the word does not belong, as admitted (by omission) in the New World Translation Reference Bible (see also Box below). Why has the word covenant been added in that verse in the NWT? In order to support the teaching that the new covenant is restricted to only the 144,000, which is a major doctrine of ours but has no scriptural support. No wonder that the average publisher is confused when attempting to explain the "new covenant" in association with the "covenant for a kingdom." (It is much like a Trinitarian attempting to explain how Jesus is God's only-begotten Son.) It is a bold example of going "beyond the things that are written" and of making unauthorized additions to God's Word. (Prov. 30:5,6; Matt. 15:6, 9; 1 Cor. 4:6) The Society's interpretation of Jesus' words at Luke 22:29 is primarily based on the teaching of J. F. Rutherford (the Society's second president) regarding the "great crowd" of Revelation, whom he identified as being an "earthly class" that will survive the great tribulation to live on earth. He never did acknowledge them as being "Jehovah's witnesses." It was not until after his death in early 1942 that the Watchtower of that summer finally corrected that. (See Proclaimers book, page 83, footnote.) What has not been corrected, though, is the scriptural fact that the new covenant embraces all of God's people, including the great crowd, all of whom exercise faith in the "blood of the covenant." (Matt. 26:28) In Revelation they are shown as having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," which Jesus referred to at Luke 22:20 as "the new covenant by virtue of my blood." The new covenant is about forgiveness of sins, not about ruling with Christ in his kingdom. (Matt. 26:27,28; Eph. 1:7) That is why the great crowd is seen standing "before the throne of God, and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple." It is impossible for anyone to be serving God in his temple apart from being in the new covenant, and having had one's sins forgiven; just as it was not possible to do so under the old covenant. (Rev. 7:9, 13-15; Num. 3:5-10)

Should this disregard for truth by the Watchtower Society cause your Bible Student to conclude that God does not have a household? To the contrary! The Scriptures foretold the presence of the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple, where he would exercise great authority over God's people, having them in subjection with harshness, "even with tyranny." (Ezek. 34:4) This lawless one's presence is not from Jehovah but rather exists "according to the operation of Satan." (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9) He is revealed immediately before Christ's return, at which time he will be done away with. (2 Thess. 2:8) But why would God tolerate such a wicked element within his own household? Remember, Jesus said that the Father is looking for persons who worship "with spirit and truth." How much do we love the "truth"? Will we go along with what we know is a lie when love of the truth results in persecution and suffering? (2 Thess. 2:10) Will we follow the crowd, believing that there is safety in numbers? (Exodus 23:2; Isaiah 59:13-15) That would make us no different from the world! (Eph. 4:17,18) We need to be given the opportunity to prove what sort of persons we individually are, for we will all be judged accordingly. "So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:11,12; 1 Peter 4:17-19) While we submit to God's temple arrangement, at the same time we need to keep "testing the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God." With the help of God's holy spirit we "take note of the inspired expression of truth and the inspired expression of error." (1 John 4:1, 6)

See also "Did Jesus Make a Covenant for a Kingdom with his Disciples?" And, "Does the Greek word "diatithemi" mean "to make a covenant," as some Bible dictionaries claim?"


In the English language we say that God "makes a covenant" [which in the Greek copy of The New World Translation, is translated from the English back into the Greek as "κάνω διαθήκη"]; but in the original Greek language, God does not make a covenant, he "gives"* a covenant [η διαθήκη ην διαθήσομαι]. The word "διαθήσομαι [diathísomai]"** appears seven times in the Greek Scriptures: Luke 22:29; Acts 3:25; Heb. 8:10; 9:16, 17; 10:16. In five of those places it is regarding a "covenant," such as at Acts 3:25, where according to the Amplified Bible, Peter explains: "You are the descendants (sons) of the prophets and the heirs of the covenant which God made and gave to your forefathers." In Hebrews 10:16, Paul writes: "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord." (ESV) In the five places where it says that God "makes a covenant," the word "covenant" is always included, in order to clarify what it is that God makes (or literally "gives").

But in Luke 22:29, where the word
διαθήσομαι occurs twice, Jesus does not mention any covenant. Rather than giving [making] a covenant with his disciples, Jesus is assuring them that they will receive the kingdom, just as he received from his Father: "And I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom." (ESV) The Greek word διατίθεμαι does not in itself indicate what it is that is being given, or assigned. It does not mean to "covenant" [verb]. If διατίθεμαι were to mean to "make a covenant," as is claimed by the translators of the New World Translation, then it would not be necessary to include the word "covenant" to specify what is being covenanted, as the translators of the NWT put it: God is "covenanting a covenant." And if it is to emphasize the point that it is a covenant that God makes, as some may argue, then why did Jesus not mention a covenant for the same reason when promising his disciples the kingdom in Luke 22:29?

That is why Paul, in his discussion of the new covenant, writing to the Hebrews (8:10), specifies that it was a covenant [διαθήκη] that God gave [διατίθεμαι] to the house of Israel. In Hebrews 9:15-22, Paul further explains how we receive the benefits of the covenant when he explains how a covenant―or a will, or a testament―works, seeing that our three words mean the same in Greek. In Luke 22:29 Jesus promised to give his disciples the kingdom. No covenant is mentioned. (Compare Luke 12:32)

* The word διατίθεμαι is variously translated as: grant; appoint; confer; assign; bestow; give; dispose; etc. (See Strong's #1303; Thayer's Greek Lexicon) It does not mean "make", although in certain places it is translated as such because in English we don't say that God "gives" a covenant but that he "makes" a covenant. Διατίθεμαι is translated as "to make a covenant" only if it is accompanied by the word covenant, διαθήκη. (See Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16, where Paul quotes from Jeremiah 31:31.) If you speak another language, how is it said in your tongue, in your Bible? Does God "make" or "give" a covenant? Did Jesus "make" a covenant with his disciples, or assure them that they will receive the kingdom? The word "covenant" in the New World Translation in Luke 22:29 is an interpolation, as is acknowledged in the NWT Reference Bible, by failing to list it among the 33 times where it occurs in the Greek text."―Rbi8 p. 1584 7D “Covenant” Used in the Ancient Hebrew Sense.

** Although appearing to be different to someone not familiar with the Greek language, διατίθεμαι - διαθέτω - διαθήσομαι are the same word, depending on how it is used in a sentence, as for example in English the words do - does are the same.