"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13)
What a profound reality for those who are in Christ. As I read this verse in my devotional today, I reflected upon my former ways of living in the "domain of darkness." I was not free no matter how much I told myself I was. Instead, I was a slave to sin. As Paul will go on to say, "you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds." (1:21) But not anymore! Following v. 13, it is explained that we "have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
But who is this a reality for? The Watchtower explains,
*** pe chap. 16 p. 136 par. 7 God’s Government Begins Its Rule ***
Yes, Jesus then began to rule over his congregation of followers who, in time, were to join him in the heavens. Thus the Bible speaks of them, while they are on earth, as being taken into “the kingdom of the Son of [God’s] love.” (Colossians 1:13) But this rule, or “kingdom,” over Christians with the hope of heavenly life is not the Kingdom government for which Jesus taught his followers to pray. It is a kingdom over only the 144,000 persons who will rule with him in heaven. Down through the centuries they have been its only subjects. Thus this rule, or ‘kingdom of the Son of God’s love,’ will end when the last one of these subjects with a heavenly hope dies and joins Christ in heaven. No longer will they be Christ’s subjects, but they will then be kings with him in God’s long-promised Kingdom government.
How incredibly sad it must be for a Jehovah's Witness to read these passages and not be able to apply it! While there is a time and a place for discussions on Christology and hell, we can't neglect the realities presented to those who are in Christ. The reason being, it gives us an opportunity to present to JW's the utterly hopeless state they are in. That is, the text presents us with two realities:
1) Those subject to the domain of darkness
2) Those subject to the kingdom of Christ
You are either subject to one or the other. That is, if you haven't been "transferred to the kingdom of [Christ]," then you are still in the "domain of darkness." Thus, it is no surprise that Jehovah's Witnesses follow a works-salvation system:
*** w51 9/15 p. 557 par. 11 What to Do in the Face of the End ***
So there is good reason for the time allowance which God has granted since 1914. It is not just to let human suffering take place on a scale greater than ever before or more flagrant wickedness to be carried on. Not that! But it is in order to discharge God’s responsibility to serve final notice and in order to send his chosen witnesses with a final warning in this “time of the end”. So this is a period of God’s undeserved kindness, allowing people of good will who are in danger to take advantage of God’s patience and mercy. They are thus given a fair opportunity to act and work for their own salvation by God’s means, and not by human means. They should never presume upon God’s patience and think he is slow and they may linger a little longer with the world and enjoy more of it before making a last-minute break for safety under God’s organization. There is now no time to lose, and we should all take the viewpoint that Peter said to take: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Pet. 3:15, NW; Rev. 12:13-17) So work for salvation.
There is nothing here about Christ obtaining eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12); nothing about imputed righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), and nothing about salvation apart from works (Romans 4:6). Instead, its all about what you can do. Its an impossible gospel and contrary to what Christ taught:
““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.””
Does this sound like Watchtower-theology to you? Or does this sound like a salvation system whereby Christ is at the center; He is the one who accomplishes salvation, not us. How is this relevant to Colossians 1:13? By denying these realities to the millions of Jehovah's Witnesses who have lived and not shared in a "heavenly hope," a works-salvation system is the only possible option for them. They are living in the dark. And those who live in the dark believe that they are the ones in charge. They are the ones who have to prove themselves. Its all man based. And it is one of the saddest realities for Jehovah's Witnesses who are trapped in this hopeless system.
So the next time you hear a knock on your door, think twice before you engage in a spiritual boxing match over definite and indefinite articles (again, not saying this is always wrong; there's a time and a place), consider sharing with them a message of hope. They already feel condemned. How do I know? Because anyone who works for their salvation knows that they are missing the mark by an infinite long-shot! Don't believe me? Ask them, "When you stand in judgment before an infinitely holy God, will he allow you to enter into paradise? And on what basis?" The answer will almost always surprise you.