Who Are ‘The Other Sheep’ of John 10:16?
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
- The Simple Answers
- Heavenly and Earthly Hopes?
- The Two Pens
- Then, What is ‘This Pen?’
- One Flock Under One Shepherd
The Simple Answers
At John 10:16, it is recorded that Jesus said:
‘However, I have other sheep that aren’t in this pen, and I must also lead them.
They too will listen to my voice and they will become one flock under one shepherd.’
Who are these ‘other sheep?’
For most religions, the answer is simple… they say that Jesus was foretelling the time when gentiles would be joined to Jews in the faith. However, there are problems with this theory if we just stop with that thought. For the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking at the time were under the Law of Moses and the Old Sacred Agreement.
And this raises the question:
Was the Old Law and Old Sacred Agreement the ‘pen’ where the gentile Christians would be joining the Jewish Christians as ‘one flock?’ No, for throughout the epistles of Paul, he told the gentile Christians that they were not under the old Law (see Romans 6:14).
Heavenly and Earthly Hopes?
Other Christian groups have reached their own conclusions as to who and what is represented by ‘this pen,’ and who ‘the other sheep’ that joins with them will be. For some have concluded that Jesus was talking about two destinies here… one ‘pen’ (they say) is comprised of ‘anointed’ Christians that have been chosen to serve as kings and priests in the heavens with Jesus, and the other ‘pen’ is faithful Christians that will live on the earth as subjects of the heavenly group. And they say that Jesus was speaking of both groups becoming joined into one religion at John 10:16.
However, there are problems with this theory also.
For, few in the Jewish crowd that Jesus was speaking to at the time were his faithful followers, so they certainly didn’t qualify to be chosen for life in heaven. In fact (going back to John 9:40), the context shows that Jesus’ discussion of the sheep started with a question that was asked by the Pharisees that were there in the crowd:
‘But, when some of the Pharisees that were with him heard this, they asked,
We aren’t blind also, are we?’
Additionally; it’s important to notice that at the time Jesus spoke those words, there really was no ‘this pen,’ since Jesus hadn’t given anyone his ‘promise of a Kingdom’ yet (see Luke 22:28-30)…
So, no one had been promised life in heaven.
Then, what was the sheep pen that Jesus was implying the unfaithful Jews and even the Pharisees were in at the time, and what was the pen where the other sheep were located?
The Two Pens
The answer to who are in the two pens was provided for us by Paul at Ephesians 2:11-18; for there he spoke of two groups becoming ‘one body’ under Jesus, and the two groups are in fact clearly seen to be Jewish and gentile Christians.
Notice that he wrote this to the gentile Christians:
‘Don’t forget that you were once gentiles in the flesh and were called the uncircumcised by those that were circumcised by hand in the flesh. You were also without the Anointed One… aliens to the citizens of IsraEl and strangers to the Sacred Agreement of the promise. Yes, you were godless and without any hope in this world! But now (through the Anointed Jesus), you that were once far away have come to be near through the blood of the Anointed One.
‘So, he is our peace; for he made the two ([Jews and Gentiles]) one by breaking down the wall that fenced them off from each other. Through his flesh, he destroyed the hatred [that was brought about by] the Law of Commandments and rules, so that through himself he could take the two and create a new man, to bring about this peace. Therefore, he brought both [types of] people back to God as one body through the impaling pole, using himself to destroy the hatred between them! For when he came, he proclaimed the good news of peace to you that were far away and to those [of you] that were nearby, so that through him they all can access the Father in [the same] spirit.’So, from the above, we can see that:
· Jewish and Gentile Christians would become one under Jesus
· They would not become one flock under the Old Law
· They did not have different destinies; since, they would in fact become ‘one body.’
Then, What is ‘This Pen?’
At Galatians 3:6-9, 17, 26-29 we read:
‘Remember that AbraHam put faith in Jehovah, and that’s why he was considered righteous.
So, don’t you know that those who have faith are the sons of AbraHam?
Why, God gave the good news to AbraHam because He saw ahead of time that He would be calling people of the nations righteous due to their faith. For He said,
All the nations will be blest because of you.
Therefore, those that have such faith are being blest along with faithful AbraHam!
‘Moreover, I tell you that the Sacred Agreement that had been confirmed by The God some four hundred and thirty years earlier and from which the Law came, didn’t supersede the promise that He gave [to AbraHam].
‘The fact is, you’ve all become sons of God through your faith in the Anointed Jesus.
Indeed, all that are baptized into the Anointed One have put on the Anointed One.
So, there are no more Jews or Greeks, slaves or freemen, males or females, because you are all in the Anointed Jesus. And if you belong to the Anointed One; as the promise told us, you are AbraHam’s seed and his heirs!’
Therefore, as you can see from the words of Paul; the ‘pen’ that Jesus was saying the Jews were in was the Sacred Agreement that God made with faithful AbraHam, not the Old Sacred Agreement of the Law.
This was clearly shown in Paul’s story of the two women and the two seeds at Galatians 4:22-26, where he wrote:
‘It was written that AbraHam had two sons, one by the slave girl and the other by the free woman. The one that came through the slave girl was born in the flesh, but the other ([that came] through the free woman) [was born] through a promise.
‘Now, this story is symbolic.
The two [women] symbolize two sacred Agreements. One (like Hagar) came from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery. So this Hagar means Sinai (a mountain in Arabia), and she symbolizes JeruSalem today, who is in slavery with her children. But the JeruSalem above is free, and she is our mother.’
Unfortunately, however, the thing that first comes to the minds of most Christians is the Old Sacred Agreement with IsraEl with its Laws and Commandments, which Paul says was done away with. And most overlook the sacred Agreement that has not passed away, the one that God made with AbraHam.
Yet, because it came first, it is greater than the Agreement that came through Moses.
Notice what was foretold about this at Psalm 105:8-11:
‘He remembers His age-long Agreement…
His promise through a thousand generations…
The Agreement that He made with AbraHam,
And the oath that He gave to IsaAc.
‘With Jacob, He set out the rules,
Which IsraEl [was to follow] through the ages.
Then He said, To you, I will give CanaAn’s land…
Your inheritance is a measured allotment of ground.’
So, any confusion as to what ‘this pen’ is and who the two flocks are that Jesus spoke of (as recorded at John 10:16) comes from a lack of appreciation for God’s greatest and lasting Sacred Agreement, the one that He made with AbraHam.
One Flock Under One Shepherd
Therefore, it is clear that when Jesus spoke of ‘this pen’ at John 10:16, he was referring to the Agreement that God made with AbraHam regarding ‘a seed,’ which was to come through natural Israel. And Jesus did indeed prove to be the primary seed. Paul pointed this out at Galatians 3:16, where he wrote:
‘Notice that the promises were given to AbraHam and to his seed.
It doesn’t say, to his seeds, as though there were many of them, but to just one, to your seed, who is the Anointed One!
And thereafter, Jesus himself brought about a secondary seed of AbraHam via the New Sacred Agreement, under which both faithful Jews and gentiles could become ‘one flock’ as the seed of AbraHam under ‘one Shepherd.’
Paul made this clear when he wrote at Galatians 3:29:
‘And if you belong to the Anointed One; according to the promise, you’ve become AbraHam’s seed and his heirs!’
So, Jesus was not speaking of groups with different destinies (a heavenly one and an earthly one) being brought together under the New Sacred Agreement at John 10:16, nor was he speaking of gentiles becoming one flock under the Old Sacred Agreement. Rather, he was telling the Jews to whom he was speaking that soon many non-IsraElite peoples (‘other sheep’) would be offered a chance to join with them under the AbraHamic Covenant… the ‘this pen’ of Christianity under the New Sacred Agreement into which they would all be gathered. And he could make such a promise to everyone in that mixed group of believers and unbelievers in JeruSalem, since all the Jews in that crowd were already under the Covenant with AbraHam (they were in ‘that pen’).
However, the sheep in both pens (Jews and gentiles) must thereafter prove themselves to truly be ‘sheep’ in order to be gathered as ‘one flock under one shepherd,’ Jesus.