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·the′ke
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
as “covenant” in these 33 places. (Bold added)
The word di·a·the′ke 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·the′ke). —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?"