Psalm 37:9, 11, 29
For evildoers themselves will be cut off, But those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.… But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth.… The righteous themselves will possess the earth, And they will reside forever upon it. (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses commonly turn to these verses in their door-to-door preaching to introduce listeners to the hope of life in an earthly paradise, rather than going to heaven. According to the Watchtower Society, the opportunity to go to heaven ended in the year 1935. Instead, Witnesses look forward to surviving the destruction of the rest of mankind at Armageddon and living forever on earth.
When read in context, however, the verses quoted from Psalm 37 paint a different picture. The psalm is not foretelling a future time when God will remove the wicked and turn control of the earth over to good people. Rather, the psalmist was inspired to tell his fellow Israelites what they could expect to see in their won lifetime—good men would prosper under God’s blessing, while wicked men would fare badly. For example, in verse 25, David writes, “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, And yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, Nor his offspring looking for bread” (nwt). He is speaking of events during his own lifetime. And in verse 37, he adds, “Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight, For the future of that man will be peaceful.” Again, the context concerns the immediate benefits of good conduct. The psalm contains no indication that it should be taken as a prophetic statement about the end of the world.
Other verses used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach an earthly hope, instead of heaven, include Psalm 115:16, John 10:16, and Revelation 7:9. See discussions elsewhere in this book.
Reed, D. A. (1997, c1986). Jehovah’s Witnesses : Answered verse by verse. Includes indexes. (electronic ed.) (33). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.