Open Letter


AN OPEN LETTER TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS – written by Dale and Bette Baker in 1990

(Note to Readers:  The Original version had an Appendix of 60 pages of photocopies of WT literature.  I could not include them in this web version at this time.  So whenever you see something like “(A-23)”, please realize that it refers to something that is not on this web site. I plan to scan the relevant portions of the Appendix and add them at a later time.) – Editor

One of the hardest things for a witness to understand is “why would anyone ever leave Jehovah’s organization.” I know, because when I was an active Witness, it was one thing I could never understand. When someone did, I just accepted the usual explanations without really investigating: “They lost their love for Jehovah,” “They were secretly carrying on practices condemned by the Bible,” “They loved pleasures more than they loved God,” “They fell victim to materialism,” etc. It never occurred to me that perhaps they left because they loved Jehovah, Christ Jesus, and the Bible.

Of course it is true that some do leave for the former reasons. People leave for many reasons, not all of them good. Some are expelled for gross immorality. But it is easier to believe that anyone who leaves must be either unworthy or wicked, than to consider the possibility that one left over matters of conscience and a desire to hold to one’s convictions based upon Scripture. For to entertain that possibility raises the question of the validity of one’s own commitment to the Watchtower Society and its teachings.

Compounding the problem is the matter of how the organization views those who leave. To communicate to others the real reason for leaving puts one at great risk of being cut off from those he loves. It is easier and safer to merely express disinterest in matters religious and simply “disappear” from sight rather than to let those in authority know the truth. At least in that way one can usually maintain normal relations with family and friends.

The problem with that is that “normal” relations do not really continue, because now there are certain subjects that are forbidden. There is no longer any real openness or intimacy. The relationship takes on a feeling of superficiality. We talk about the weather or job or relatives but not the central values around which life really revolves. One feels a certain sense of disapproval though not usually openly expressed lest the subject come out in the open and force confrontation. The result is an inner frustration and fear. You want to “level” with those you care about, but knowing the Witness “mind set” and the control over individual thinking that the organization exerts, you fear to be open about your feelings and concerns lest what you say triggers the harsh reaction mandated by the policies of the Watchtower Society. Yet eventually one’s own integrity forces the issue out regardless of the consequences. After all, you have to live with your conscience. That is why I have decided to put my feelings in writing; perhaps it will be less threatening and more easily understood.

Please understand that I am not trying to get anyone to leave the Watchtower organization. It has, after all, done a certain measure of good. Any organization which turns people toward God and Christ and the Bible is accomplishing some good, and the moral behavior of many witnesses is certainly commendable. The association and support system it can provide can be valuable, especially for young families. After all, Christianity is really a religion of community, thus we need the association of fellow Christians. That, probably, is the hardest thing about leaving: the fear of not being able to find upbuilding Christian association. I know that there are many who are bothered by the conflicts they see in their religion, but the fear of being cut off and the uncertainty of replacing that “community need” in their lives leads them to conclude that for them the advantages of the organization outweigh its disadvantages. For my wife and me, however, it did not.

That is not to say that I think there is something “wrong” with those who choose to stay, or are not bothered by the things that bothered us. That is a matter of their own conscience, and they may see things differently than we do. Each person’s crisis of conscience comes at a different time and may be over different matters for different individuals. I can still accept them and would be pleased to continue fellowship with them as individuals. Of course the practical point of the matter is that they may not continue to accept me. If that should be the case, it would be a necessary, albeit painful loss, since I cannot but follow my own conscience as trained by God’s inspired Word.
For us there was never one simple issue which caused us to have doubts and questions about the organization; rather, it was the organization’s teachings and its claim of divine direction contrasted with what we observed and experienced over a period of years that first did that. This discrepancy threatened to drive us toward atheism, because anything that shattered faith in the organization affected faith in God, so closely are the two tied. Thus we were eventually forced to realize that the organization was actually coming between us and our relationship with God. Once we no longer felt that it was really what it claimed to be, God’s exclusive channel of communication to mankind, we could no longer keep up the pretense that it was. I would like to try to explain how we came to this conclusion. I hope that you will be open-minded enough to read it.

Our Story

My wife and I spent most of our lives in the Watchtower organization. My mother became a Witness when I was four years old; I have never known anything else. Likewise, my wife’s family converted when she was a young teen. For us, leaving was difficult, since our whole world of friends and family was tied up with the Watchtower organization. Growing up as Witnesses, we did all the things that Witness youths are expected to do. After high school, rather than go on to college(1), I became a member of the “Bethel family,” as members of the Watchtower headquarters staff are known. There I got to know the inner workings of the organization, and some of the individuals who are in positions of authority. I left Bethel in 1956, but continued as a full-time “pioneer minister,” being joined in this activity by my wife after our marriage in 1958. We continued in this activity until we became parents. Throughout all my years as a Witness, I have served in some capacity in most of the local congregations I attended. It was during the years as an elder in a small Midwestern town that the questions of conscience forced us to the confrontation that this letter documents.

Does Our Religion Have a Double Standard?

One early perception that led to disillusionment was
the feeling that in some respects we had a double standard. One example that
stands out in my mind illustrates this well. In the December 1, 1986 issue
of the Watchtower magazine appeared an article “Religious Liberty
Under Attack in Greece.” In it was a well-documented account of outrageous
religious intolerance in the “birthplace of democracy,” Greece. The article
effectively refutes the accusations made against Jehovah’s Witnesses by the
Greek Orthodox Church which resulted in the loss of religious freedom for
all Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece. The Church’s argument to the court (based
on Jehovah’s Witnesses denial of the trinity doctrine) claimed: “Jehovah’s
Witnesses not only cannot be rightfully called Christians, that is to say,
disciples of Christ, but on the contrary, they are . . . the antichrists.”
The Watchtower article takes issue with these accusations. Under
the subheading “Who Are the Christians” it says:

“Nowhere did Jesus instruct Christians
to persecute, imprison, assault, or take mob action against those who disagreed
with them. Thus, in the first century the real Christians were the
persecuted, not the persecutors.
The persecutors were the clergy
and those incited by them. It is the same in Greece today.”

The next subheading asks “Are They Antichrists?” It
is clear that the Society is highly offended by this charge. They give the
following refutation:

“What does the Bible say of “antichrist?”
At 1 John 2:22 it states: `Who is the liar if it is not the one that
denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist,
the one that denies the Father and the Son.’ Thus, the plain fact of God’s
inspired Word is that an antichrist does not accept Jesus. But Jehovah’s
Witnesses do! They most fervently believe in Jesus and follow his teachings!
In fact, no one can become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses without accepting Jesus
as the divine Son of God, who came down from heaven, was impaled and resurrected,
and who returned to heaven. So anyone who says that Jehovah’s Witnesses are
“antichrist” either is badly misinformed, is blinded by prejudice,
or has an evil motive
.”

Since one of the reasons the Greek Orthodox Church
considered Jehovah’s Witnesses to be antichrists was their denial of the
Trinity doctrine, the article gives a refutation of the doctrine of the trinity.
Then they go on to say:

“However, if the Orthodox Church wants
to believe the Trinity, that is their right. But it has no right in a democratic
land to persecute, incite mobs and arrests, and deny Jehovah’s Witnesses
their liberties because they do not believe the Trinity.”

“…Jehovah’s Witnesses, well known
and granted legal recognition internationally, uphold those democratic
principles. They want Greece to uphold them too, and not to let any
church impose its Inquisition mentality on others by persecuting those who
do not agree with its views.”

I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by this
article as do Jehovah’s Witnesses and other lovers of religious freedom
throughout the world. In past incidents of governmental oppression, the Society
has encouraged all who agree to express their outrage in letters to the
government officials responsible and the press of the nations involved so
that both sides may be heard. I believe this is a right and reasonable action
to take.

How is it, though, that when the shoe is on the other
foot, the Watchtower Society acts more like Greek Orthodox Clergy than the
fair minded-lovers of religious freedom which they characterize themselves
to be? Jehovah’s Witnesses consider the charge of “antichrist” (or “apostate”)
to be false because they believe in Christ Jesus. But why
is it that they mete out harsh treatment to any who may disagree with
any teaching of the Watchtower Society and brand them as
evil “apostates” with wicked motives even though such
ones believe deeply in Christ Jesus as their mediator and ransomer?

And why is it right for Jehovah’s Witnesses to petition government officials
and the press in order to have their side of the story told, but wrong for
one banished by the organization for doctrinal disagreements to attempt to
explain what he feels to be an unfair accusation either by word or letter?
Anyone who disagrees with any teaching of the Society is treated in a manner
reminiscent of the Inquisition. Even though his good name is besmirched,
his motives impugned, he is to remain silent. How does such conduct reflect
the teaching of our Lord, “All things, therefore, that you want men to do
to you, you also must likewise do to them?” The conduct of the Watchtower
Society in this matter seems to me to be a double standard, which to me is
repugnant.

I suppose I can say that I really left
because of what the organization taught me about the Bible.
I always felt that we had “the truth,” and that the source of that truth
was the Bible. That meant that what we believed was true, and that those
beliefs could be proven by the Bible. When I studied the Truth that leads
to Eternal Life
book with people of other religions and considered the
chapter “Why it is wise to examine your religion,” I really believed that
one should question his religion. That chapter says:

“It is not any man, but God, who is
the judge of what pleases him. To get God’s viewpoint, we need to go to the
Bible. There he plainly tells us the course to follow if we want to gain
eternal life.” — Page 11 (A-1)

“We need to examine, not only what
we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious
organization
with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full
harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we
are lovers of truth, there is nothing to fear from such an
examination
. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us
to learn what God’s will is for us and then do it.” – Page 13
(A-2)

“Follow the course of those ancient
Beroeans whom God’s Word approves because they “received the word with the
greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to
whether these things were so. – Acts 17:11: – Pages 15,16 (A-3)

“As you examine God’s Word, you will
learn that your love for God will be put to the test. There may be individuals,
perhaps even close friends or relatives, who will not approve of your examining
the Scriptures. (1 Peter 4:4; Matthew 10:36,37) They may try to discourage
you . . . If this should occur, remember, having God’s approval is far
more important than having the approval of men.”
– Page 16
(A3)

Since 1982 the You Can Live Forever in Paradise
on Earth
book has replaced the Truth book and it, too, makes
a similar appeal to the propriety of examining one’s own religion:

“How should you feel if proof
is given that what you believe is wrong
? For example, say that you
were in a car, traveling for the first time to a certain place. You have
a road map, but you have not taken time to check it carefully. Someone has
told you the road to take. You trust him, sincerely believing that the
way he has directed you is correct. But suppose it is
not
. What if someone points out the error? What if he, by referring
to your own map, shows that you are on the wrong road? Would pride or
stubbornness prevent you from admitting that you are on the wrong road? Well,
then, if you learn from an examination of your Bible that you are traveling
a wrong religious road, be willing to change
. Avoid the broad road to
destruction; get on the narrow road to life!” — page 32, 33
(A3)

In a like vein, the November 22, 1984 Awake published
a series of articles stressing the importance of keeping an open mind, even
in matters of religious faith. The first article “An Open or a Closed Mind
– Which Do You Have” contrasted the closed and open mind and pointed out
the advantages of having the latter:

“Having an open mind, on the other
hand, means being willing to examine and to evaluate information
without a biased attitude
. By retaining what is worthwhile and rejecting
what is worthless, we can reach definite conclusions on a solid basis and
still leave our minds open to further revision should additional
information become available
at a future time. He who feels he has
learned it all can be sure that this attitude will prevent him from
ever learning more.
” – Page 3, 4 (A-4)

The third article “An Open Mind Wins God’s Approval”
said:

“The importance of having an open mind
so as to win God’s approval is shown in the words recorded at Ephesians 5:10,17.
There we read: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable
to the Lord. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go
on perceiving
what the will of Jehovah is.” – Page 8
(A-5)

Subheading: “How to Find Religious Truth”:

“An open mind is willing to do what
1 John 4:1 recommends. It says: ‘Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired
expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether
they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into
the world.'” – Page 9 (A-5)

Here the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses recommends
that their readers have an open mind and feel free to examine their religion.
After all, if we have the truth, then what is there to fear?
Truth will stand up to any investigation. Really, that is what makes it truth.
I had always felt that was really the difference between our religion and
all others: that we had the faith to examine our beliefs and to change them
if they proved to be out of harmony with God’s Word the Bible. For that reason
I never feared to discuss any subject or read material that examines other
viewpoints.

The Scriptures remind us at Proverbs 18:13 that “When
anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on
his part and a humiliation.” One can hardly say he has “heard” a matter until
he has given fair consideration to both sides. There is great benefit to
us in our doing so. For if, after examining the evidence on both sides, we
remain convinced that our view is correct, our faith in our convictions has
been strengthened. If, on the other hand, we see some merit in the other
viewpoint, we should be willing to adjust our thinking. In this way we can
demonstrate whether we are really interested in the truth of matters, or
in justifying our own views. When conflicting ideas clash in fair and open
contest, it is truth that comes off the victor. The more it is tested, the
more brilliantly it shines. It was Joseph Rutherford who said:

“Every man should be persuaded in his
own mind and no man should permit himself to be deterred from examining a
question based upon the Bible because a clergyman or any one else makes the
unsupported assertion that it is dangerous or unworthy of consideration.
Error always seeks the dark, while truth is always enhanced by the light.
Error never desires to be investigated. Light always courts a thorough and
complete investigation.” — Millions Now Living Will Never Die,
page 13

But now I read in the Watchtower that such
an attitude is dangerous and wrong. The March 15, 1986 issue said of reading
literature critical of the Watchtower Society:

“Will curiosity cause you to read it,
just to see what he has to say? You may even reason: `It won’t affect me;
I’m too strong in the truth. And besides, if we have the truth, we have nothing
to fear. The truth will stand the test.’ In thinking this way, some have
fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious
questioning and doubt.” — Page 12

Then it went on to try to discourage and even intimidate
anyone from making such an investigation, reviling such persons and impugning
their motives. Compare, however, the statements made in the Truth
book where they tell others: “if we are lovers of truth, there is nothing
to fear from such an examination.” Here Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraging
people of other faiths to examine their religion in a critical
way, using the publications of the Watchtower Society (an organization that
their church would consider “apostate”), to lead them to
“the truth.” Then, once they become a Jehovah’s Witness, they lose this right
to be open-minded. If, as the Watchtower Society insists, they have the truth,
what is it that they are afraid of? Is their position so shaky that the slightest
hint of argument against it leads to questioning and doubt? Why is it wrong
for a Witness to do what he recommends that others do?

Consider the matter from this viewpoint: suppose a
Catholic family asks their priest if it’s all right if they read the
Watchtower, since it is critical of the Catholic religion. He could
read them Romans 16:17,18: “I implore you, brothers, be on your guard against
who puts difficulties in the way of the doctrine you have been taught. Avoid
them . . . [they are] confusing the simple-minded with their pious and persuasive
arguments” (Jerusalem Bible). Then when the Witness returned, the Catholic
could say, “It wasn’t the priest who told us not to read the
Watchtower; it was God speaking through the scriptures.”
How would the Witness like being called “apostate” and a threat to genuine
Christians? Wouldn’t he try to convince the Catholic that he has nothing
to fear from an examination of the evidence, and in fact God requires
each individual to do that?

Are we not guilty of telling people of other religions
to do what we are not willing to do ourselves? Isn’t that a case of “having
two sets of scales”? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses in fact have a double standard?
The Bible is very clear as to how Jehovah feels about double standards.

 

“Two sorts of weights are something
detestable to Jehovah, and a cheating pair of scales is not good.” — Proverbs
20:23.

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man,
whoever you are, if you judge; for in the thing in which you judge another,
you condemn yourself, inasmuch as you that judge practice the same
things
.” — Romans 2:1

 

In the forty-five or more years that I was active as
a Jehovah’s Witness, I have talked to thousands of people of other religions,
many of whom challenged my beliefs as a Witness. Yet I was never afraid to
listen to their views, or even to accept literature which criticized the
teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After all, if I were to be able to defend
my faith and convince them that what I believed was the truth, I needed to
understand their beliefs. However, it wasn’t anything that the “apostates”
said that caused me to begin questioning my belief system. It was what I
read in the Watchtower itself that led me to have doubts and
questions.

The same Watchtower of March 15, 1986 went on to say:

“If, out of curiosity, we were to read
the literature of a known apostate would that not be the same as inviting
this enemy of true worship right into our home to sit down with us and relate
his apostate ideas?” -Page 13

“Well, if we would act so decisively
to protect our children from exposure to pornography, should we not expect
that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from
spiritual fornication, including apostasy? He says, Keep away from it.” -Page
13

One familiar with mind control methods would readily
recognize such rhetoric as a “thought-stopping”
method(2). Such an analogy coming from a source
that a Witness considers to be the equivalent of God himself is virtually
guaranteed to stop all logical thought process in the Witness mind. Such
statements effectively shut the Witness off from any information that would
challenge the authority of the Watchtower Society or the correctness of their
teaching. For anyone to disregard such “counsel” runs the risk of being himself
declared an “apostate” for merely reading anything critical of The Watchtower
Society. Thus the Watchtower Society inserts itself as a “filter” between
the individual and the vast body of information which comes at us from all
directions. Yet God gave each one of us our own “filter” with which to sort
through information. It is our mind, trained by his Word to distinguish right
from wrong. We are admonished at 1 John 4:1:

“Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression,
but test the inspired expressions to see whether
they originate with God
, because many false prophets have gone forth
into the world.”

How else can we do this and make accurate judgments except by making a personal
examination? In this way each one of us is challenged to grow up spiritually
by individually taking responsibility for our beliefs and actions, and not
abdicating this responsibility to others:

“For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with
the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those
who through use have their perceptive powers trained
to distinguish both right and wrong.” — Hebrews 5:13,14
NW

A trip to “Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words” is enlightening
with respect to the word “distinguish” in the above text. It is from the
Greek word diakrisis and means “a distinguishing, a clear
discrimination, discerning, judging . . . In Heb. 5:14 the phrase consisting
of pros, with this noun, lit.2, `towards a discerning.’ is translated `to
discern,’ said of those who are capable of discriminating between
good and evil.

In the ensuing years I have become more convinced that
everyone should feel free to reexamine his beliefs in the
spirit of a fair, open-minded search for truth as advocated by the Watchtower
Society in times past. The Scriptures indicate to me that this is an
individual responsibility – not one that can be safely entrusted
to others. I believe that such an attitude is appropriate for Jehovah’s Witnesses
as well as people of other faiths. It is part of our “load” of Christian
responsibility to which Paul referred in his letter to the Galatians:

“But let each one prove what his own work is, and then he
will have cause for exultation not in comparison with the other person. For
each one will carry is own load.” — Galatians 6:4,5

This is not something that can be delegated to someone else. Sometimes other
Christians can help us by providing insights and understanding. But as Paul
implied, no man or organization can be the custodian of our faith, having
the right or obligation to define our faith for us. That is our own personal
responsibility before God; it is to him that we individually must eventually
answer.

“Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are
fellow workers for your joy, for it is by your faith that you are standing.”
— 2 Corinthians 1:24 NW

“We are not trying to dictate to you what you must believe;
because you stand firm in the faith. Instead, we are working with you for
your own happiness.” — 2 Corinthians 1:24 TEV

 

Early in the Society’s history, in 1890, Pastor Russell commented on the
prejudice he observed among members of religious organizations towards critically
examining their own religious beliefs, and I think his comments are interesting
in the light of the organization’s current position on the subject:

“There are various degrees of bondage among the various sects
of Babylon — “Christendom.” Some who would indignantly resent the utter
and absolute slavery of individual conscience and judgment, required by
Romanism
, are quite willing to be bound themselves, and anxious to get
others bound, by the creeds and dogmas of one or another of the Protestant
sects. True, their chains are lighter and longer than those of Rome and the
dark ages. So far as it goes, this is surely good, -reformation truly, -a
step in the right direction, — toward full liberty, — toward the condition
of the church in the apostolic times. But why wear human shackles at all?
Why bind and limit our conscience at all?

“Why not stand fast in the full liberty wherein Christ hath
made us free? Why not reject all the efforts of fallible fellow-men to
fetter conscience and hinder investigation?
— not only the efforts of
the remote past, of the dark ages, but the efforts of the various reformers
of the more recent past? Why not conclude to be as the apostolic church was?
free to grow in knowledge as well as in grace and love, as the
Lord’s “due time” shall reveal his gracious plan more and more fully?”

“Surely all know that whenever they join any of these human
organizations, accepting its Confession of Faith as theirs, they bind themselves
to believe neither more or less than that creed expresses on the subjects.
If, in spite of bondage thus voluntarily yielded to, they should think for
themselves, and receive light from other sources, in advance of the light
enjoyed by the sect they have joined, they must either prove untrue to the
sect and to their covenant with it, to believe nothing contrary to its
Confession, or else they must honestly cast aside and repudiate the Confession
which they have outgrown, and come out of such a sect. To do this requires
grace and costs some effort, disrupting, as it often does, pleasant associations,
and exposing the honest truth-seeker to the silly charges of being a “traitor”
to his sect, a “turncoat,” one “not established,” etc
. When one joins
a sect, his mind is supposed to be given up entirely to that sect, and henceforth
not his own. The sect undertakes to decide for him what is truth and what
is error; and he, to be a true, staunch, faithful member, must accept the
decisions of his sect, future as well as past, on all religious matters,
ignoring his own individual thought, and avoiding personal investigation
lest he grow in knowledge, and be lost as a member of such sect
. This
slavery of conscience to a sect and creed is often stated in so many words,
when such a one declares that he “belongs” to such a sect.”

“These shackles of sectarianism, so far from being esteemed
rightly as shackles and bonds, are esteemed and worn as ornaments, as badges
of respect and marks of character. So far has the delusion gone, that many
of God’s children would be ashamed to be known to be without some such chains
– light or heavy in weight, long or short in the personal liberty granted.
They are ashamed to say that they are not in bondage to any sect or creed,
but “belong” to Christ only
.” Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3,
page 184,185

One might ponder how much progress the Watchtower Society has made in the
nearly hundred years since those words were written. How much personal liberty
and freedom of thought and conscience do individual Witnesses have now? Will
they be thought of as a “turncoat” if their conscience compels them to make
honest examination of their belief system and its religious values? But I
am getting ahead of my story.

Some people have assumed that my wife and I withdrew because we were “stumbled”
by the actions of certain elders and Circuit Overseers, that we allowed
personalities to destroy our relationship with Jehovah and his organization.
In reality, the things these people did and the harm it caused to others
merely confronted us with the bad fruits of their kind of religion. That
is why we began to ask questions about what real Christianity involved in
the way of our relationship with God and fellow Christians. Also it raised
questions about an organization that by its very nature seemed to condone
that sort of thing.


Has The Society Truly Represented Jehovah As His
Prophet?

As a part of my heritage as a Jehovah’s witness, I
accepted without question (or investigation) the belief that the Watchtower
Society is the “faithful and discreet slave” that has been given spiritual
authority over “Gods organization” in our time. I accepted that it was “Jehovah’s
exclusive channel” of communication between God and man. I came to accept
that the things said in the publications were the product of direction by
God’s holy spirit. And since the “light was getting brighter and brighter,”
I viewed the changes in doctrine as “refinements” in understanding and as
a consequence of God being pleased to use imperfect men in his divine purpose.
I have never expected perfection of God’s people. The Israelites were not
perfect, the early Christian congregation was not perfect, and neither are
Jehovah’s Witnesses. That fact I can live with. Even the events we experienced
in our congregation can be excused in that light.

Whenever reference is made to what the
Watchtower has published in the past, the objection is often raised,
“Why keep bringing up the past? Sure, we’ve made mistakes, but we’ve corrected
them. We don’t teach those things now.” The reason that it is appropriate
to bring up past teachings of the Society is because of its claim to have
predicted future events
, such as the events surrounding 1914. To examine
the accuracy of a prediction, one must review what was actually
said prior to the predicted event.

It is interesting to me that when I bring up the matter
of the Society’s claim to be a prophet in the light of its many failed
predictions, most Witnesses will claim that the Watchtower Society does not
claim to be an inspired prophet. Yet when I ask them “Is the Watchtower Society
a spokesman for God in the earth today?” they will invariably answer “Why,
yes, of course.” However, isn’t that what a prophet is — one who speaks
for God? I am reminded of an article that appeared in the Watchtower
in 1972, during the time that excitement was building among Jehovah’s Witnesses
regarding the year 1975, entitled, “They shall know that A PROPHET WAS AMONG
THEM.” After answering their own question “So does Jehovah have a prophet
to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?” in
the affirmative, they go on to identify that prophet:

“These questions can be answered in
the affirmative. Who is this prophet? … This “prophet” was not one man,
but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers
of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today
they are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Of course, it is easy to say
that this group acts as a “prophet” of God. It is another thing to prove
it. The only way that this can be done is to review the
record.
” — Watchtower, April 1, 1972, page 197
(A-6)

It was precisely my reviewing the record of their claims
as a “prophet” of God that destroyed my faith in them. For years I had been
telling people that Jehovah’s Witnesses had correctly foretold the outbreak
of a time of trouble in 1914, many years before the fact, and that this knowledge
established their “credentials” as spokesman for God in these “last days.”
For example, in 1973, this statement was made:

“Of all men used by God to prophesy
Jesus is outstanding. Based on what he said along with the words of Daniel
and John, Jehovah’s Witnesses pointed to year 1914 decades in advance
as marking the start
of the conclusion of the system
of things. Within the period of one generation outstanding war, food shortages,
pestilences, and other terrible conditions were predicted to strike before
God destroyed this system and replaced it with a new order.”

Awake January 22, 1973
page 8 (A-6)

For most of my years as a Witness, this was what I
believed that the Bible Students were preaching in the years prior to 1914.
This is a blatant misrepresentation of matters and deceives the readers into
thinking that the Bible Students knew that a generation would begin in 1914
that would apparently go on for many years, within which all of these predicted
events would occur, when in reality what they believed and preached was quite
different, as the following material will show.

For that reason I feel that I personally misled many
people, even as I was misled, into placing unwarranted confidence in an
organization that has not been very honest about its history. Now I feel
obligated to set that matter straight.

The Watchtower of April 1, 1972 invited its
readers to review the record of the Watchtower “prophecy.” Unfortunately,
the Society has not seen fit to provide information that would enable one
to do so. Evidently individuals are expected to make such a review based
only on the Watchtower’s own account of its predictions. But would that
constitute a “fair hearing” of the matter? Although many Kingdom Halls have
libraries which do contain pre-1914 literature, I have been told by several
Witnesses that in some congregations, older literature is kept inaccessible
and that some elders even intimidate those who want to examine it. Thus,
the only sources of older publications available to most Witnesses are from
those outside the organization itself. Yet these very sources the Watchtower
itself has characterized as “apostate” and has equated as “pornography.”

Consider: if someone claims to be able to predict the
future, and then invites you to “examine the record” so as to be convinced
of the reality of his claim, would you not become suspicious if he then
discourages you from doing so? Suppose he demands that you examine only his
own promotional materials and becomes very upset with you if you insist on
researching for yourself the historical materials that would prove or disprove
his claims? Would you not think that perhaps he had something to hide? Most
rational persons would give no further consideration to such claims.

Paul did not become upset or angry with the Beroeans
for “checking up” on what he was teaching them. Rather, he commended them
in Acts 17:11:

“Now the latter were more noble-minded
than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with the greatest
eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to
whether these things were so
.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 he advised:

“Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”

 

In the latter part of the first century, when apostasy
was already in evidence, John wrote:

“Beloved ones, do not believe every
inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they
originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the
world.” 1 John 4:1 NW

If “inspired expressions” are to be
tested by the individual Christian, are we not also commanded by Scripture
to test the “expressions” of those who are merely “spirit
directed?”(3) Is it reasonable to think that
God would become upset or angry with us for doing so? Thus if someone to
whom we looked as a spiritual leader and “agent of God” became upset and
angry with us for doing what God has invited us to do, should we not rightly
become suspicious of his claims? Accordingly I have provided many quotations
of earlier Watchtower Society publications which show exactly what was said
at various times in their history. Additionally, I have provided an extensive
appendix which contains photocopies of the original articles since these
are no longer available to many of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is apparent when reading the Watchtower publications that the writers
usually present their predictions in the most positive terms, implying the
absolute backing of the scriptures and of Jehovah himself for what they say.
For example:

“Now, in view of recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy,
our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914
date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can hold out so
long under the strain.

“We see no reason for changing the figures – nor could we
change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not
ours.
But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for
the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble
.” –Watch
Tower
, July 1894 (A-14)

“As Jehovah revealed his truths by means
of the first-century Christian congregation so he does today
by means of the present-day Christian congregation. Through this agency he
is having carried out prophesying on an intensified and
unparalleled scale. All of this activity is not an accident. Jehovah
is the one behind all of it.
” –Watchtower June 15, 1964,
page 365 (A-7)

 

Yet, when the failures of their predictions are brought to their attention
or their detractors suggest that they are “false prophets,” they react strongly,
as in this Watchtower article:

“Yes, Jehovah’s people have had to revise expectations from
time to time. Because of our eagerness, we have hoped for the new system
earlier than Jehovah’s timetable has called for it. But we display our faith
in God’s Word and its sure promises by declaring its message to others. Moreover,
the need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false
prophets
or change the fact that we are living in “the last
days,” soon to experience the “great tribulation” that will pave the way
for the earthly Paradise. How foolish to take the view that expectations
needing some adjustment should call into question the whole body of truth!
The evidence is clear that Jehovah has used and is continuing to use his
one organization
, with the “faithful and discreet slave” taking the
lead
. Hence, we feel like Peter, who said: “Lord, whom shall we go away
to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”” –Watchtower, March 15,
1986, page 19

But is it accurate to say that they have merely “had to revise their
understanding somewhat” with regard to their time calculations? If one considers
the entire history of their prophesying, a different picture emerges. For
example, Russell originally held that “the last days” began in 1799 and ran
until 1914. He believed that Christ assumed Kingdom power in 1874 and that
in 1878 he began his judgment at the house of God. He also taught that in
1881 the “door would close” upon the opportunity of becoming a member of
the “bride of Christ.” Note these statements from The Time Is At Hand,
published 1889:

“Our Lord’s presence as Bridegroom and Reaper was recognized
during the first three and a half years, from A.D. 1874 to A.D. 1878. Since
that time it has been emphatically manifest that the time had come in A.D.
when kingly judgment should begin at the house of God . . . The year A.D.
1878, being parallel of his assuming power and authority in the type, clearly
marks the time for the actual assuming of power as King of kings by our present,
spiritual invisible Lord – the time of his taking to himself his great power
to reign, which in prophecy is closely associated with the resurrection of
his faithful, and the beginning of the trouble and wrath upon the nations.”
— page 239 (A-7)

“True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that
within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown
and dissolved
; but we are living in a special and peculiar time, the
“Day of Jehovah,” in which matters culminate quickly; and it is written,
“A short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” -page 98 (A-8)

” In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times
of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the
final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full
establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the
end of A.D. 1914
.” -page 99 (A-8)

Some may feel that the Society’s time prophecy regarding 1914 must be
correct since World War I broke out in that year
. It would seem remarkable
if an event such as World War I could be accurately predicted 39 years in
advance. To consider the validity of this conclusion, we need to examine
just what the Bible Students were predicting prior to 1914. In the
book The Time Is At Hand, 1909 edition, page 77, 78 (See A10) Russell
predicted these events to occur by or before the year 1914:

1. Kingdom of God to have full universal control of the earth.

2. Christ Jesus will overthrow all earthly governments.

3. Before end of 1914, last member of Body of Christ glorified
in heaven.

4. Jerusalem (literal) will no longer be trodden down by gentiles.

5. Israel’s blindness turned away; Jews become converted to Christ

6. “Time of trouble” to reach climax in world reign of anarchy.

7. God’s Kingdom completely consumes power of worldly governments.

In the years preceding 1914, there was widespread fear of world war, which
many felt was inevitable(4). Russell, however,
did not expect war to break out in 1914. Note this comment made in
a Watchtower article in 1893:

“A great storm is near at hand. Though one may not know exactly
when it will break forth, it seems reasonable to suppose that it cannot be
more than twelve or fourteen years yet future.”

Twelve or fourteen years from 1893 would be 1905 or 1907 – not 1914. So actually
Russell was preaching that if war did break out it would have to be some
years prior to 1914, when he expected God’s kingdom to be
fully established over earth. In actuality, none of the events that
Russell predicted to happen did
. And the one thing he did not
expect to happen did. Does that “prove” the correctness of his prediction?

The year 1914 and the years immediately thereafter proved to be devastating
to the Bible Students. They had expected to be in heaven ruling with Christ.
Many of them left, their hopes dashed in bitter disappointment over the failure
of their hopes to materialize. In the 1916 edition of the same book, Russell
felt compelled to give the following explanation in the author’s
forward:

“The author acknowledges that in this book he presents the
thought that the Lord’s saints might expect to be with Him in glory at the
end of the Gentile Times. This was a natural mistake to fall into, but the
Lord overruled it for the blessing of His people. The thought that the Church
would all be gathered to glory before October, 1914, certainly did have a
very stimulating and sanctifying effect upon thousands, all of whom accordingly
can praise the Lord — even for the Mistake.”

The confusion that they felt can be seen in a statement in the Watch Tower
of September 1, 1916. After commenting on their disappointment that the harvest
work was not over, but seemed to be continuing, he
stated:

“In the meantime, our eyes of understanding should
discern clearly the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty now in
progress;
and our faith, guiding our eyes of understanding through
the Word, should enable us to see the glorious outcome — Messiah’s Kingdom.”
Watch Tower, September 1, 1916, page 265

But history was once again to prove them wrong and it was necessary to “adjust.”
In this case “adjusting their understanding somewhat” meant transferring
all the expectations for 1874 and 1878 to 1914 and 1919. After Russell’s
death in 1916, Joseph F. Rutherford became president of the Society. In 1917
he published The Finished Mystery in which he made some bold predictions
of his own regarding the years 1918 and 1920. These predictions also failed
to materialize. However when a new edition of the book was published in 1926,
the offending statements were modified so as to cover up the false prediction:

 

The Finished Mystery 1917 Edition

 

“Also in the year 1918, when God destroys
the churches and the church members by millions it shall be that any that
escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of
the downfall of “Christianity.”

 

“16:20. And every island fled away. Even the republics will
disappear in the fall of 1920.”

 

“And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of the
earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy.” -page 485 (A-11)

 

“The three days in which Pharaoh’s host pursued the Israelites
into the wilderness represent the three years from 1917 to
1920
at which time all of Pharaoh’s messengers will be swallowed
up in the sea of angry humanity. The wheels will come off their chariots
– organizations.” -page 258

(A-11)

The Finished Mystery 1926 Edition

 

“Also in the year 1918, when God begins to
destroy
the churches and the church members by millions it shall
be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn
the meaning of the downfall of “Christianity.”

 

“16:20. And every island fled away. Even the republics will
disappear in the time of anarchy.”

 

“And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of the
earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy.” -page 485 (A-11)

 

“The three days in which Pharaoh’s host pursued the Israelites
into the wilderness represent the three years preceding the time
of anarchy
at which time all of Pharaoh’s messengers will be swallowed
up in the sea of angry humanity. The wheels will come off their chariots
– organizations.” -page 258

(A-11) In 1920 Rutherford made
a bold prediction in his booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die.
After setting forth an elaborate system of prophetic chronology, Rutherford
asserted:

“Based upon the argument heretofore set forth, then, that
the old order of things, the old world, is ending and is therefore passing
away, and that the new order is coming in, and that 1925 shall mark the
resurrection of the faithful worthies of old
and the beginning of the
reconstruction, it is reasonable to conclude that millions of people now
on the earth will be still on the earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises
set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive and
indisputable conclusion
that millions now living will never
die.” -page 97 (A-13)

In 1926, at an assembly of the International Bible Students in Basel,
Switzerland, Rutherford was asked if the ancient worthies had returned. His
response was:

“Certainly they have not returned. No one has seen them,
and it would be foolish to make such an announcement. It was stated in the
“Millions” that we might reasonably expect them to return shortly after 1925,
but this was merely an expressed opinion.” — 1980
Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 6

Unfortunately, the word “opinion” is not used in the “Millions” book with
respect to this prediction. But the phrase “we can confidently expect” is.
I believe it would have been helpful if such predictions had been
presented as one man’s opinion rather than as “truth” from Jehovah’s
organization. But one can understand his response to the failure of his
expectations to materialize by considering his overall approach to the matter
of date setting. The Watch Tower of May 15, 1922 under the subtitle
“Stamped with God’s Approval,” said:

“It was on this line of reckoning that the dates 1874, 1914,
and 1918 were located; and the Lord has placed the stamp of his seal upon
1914 and 1918 beyond any possibility of erasure.
What further evidence
do we need
?”

“Using this same measuring line, beginning with the entry
of the children of Israel into Canaan, and counting the full 70 cycles of
50 years each, as clearly indicated by Jehovah’s sending of the Jews into
Babylon for the full 70 years, it is an easy matter to locate 1925, probably
the fall, for the beginning of the antitypical jubilee. There can be no more
question about 1925 than there was about 1914.
The fact that all
the things that some looked for in 1914 did not materialize does not alter
the chronology one whit
. Noting the date marked so prominently,
it is very easy for the finite mind to conclude that all the work to be done
must center about it, and thus many are inclined to anticipate more than
has been really foretold. Thus it was in 1844, in 1874, in 1878 as well as
in 1914 and 1918.
Looking back we can now easily see that those dates
were clearly indicated in Scripture and doubtless intended by the Lord to
encourage his people, as they did, as well as to be a means of testing
and sifting
when all that some expected did not come to pass
.
That all that some expect to see in 1925 may not transpire that year
will not alter the date one whit more than in the other
cases
.” (A-15)

Rutherford neglected to mention that “the things that some looked for in
1914” were things the Watch Tower predicted to occur, not
independently-arrived-at expectations of individual Bible Students. The June
15, 1922 Watch Tower elaborated further on the rightness of their chronology
under the subtitle, “Further Proof of Present-Truth Chronology”, saying:

“There is a well known law of mathematics called “the law
of probabilities.” Applications of this law are frequent in everyday life
in settling matters of doubt. In a family of children, if a certain kind
of mischief is committed, the probabilities — indeed, the certainty — are
that it was done by a certain one, and that the others assuredly did not
do it. If some peculiar damage is done by night to a single house, then by
the law of probabilities it may have been a pure accident; if done to two
houses in the same manner it probably was not accidental but by design of
some person; but if done to three or more houses in the same manner it passes
out of the possibility of accident into the certainty of
design.

The chronology of present truth might be a mere happening
if it were not for the repetitions in the two great cycles of 1845 and 2520
years, which take it out of the realm of chance and into that of certainty
.
If there were only one or two corresponding dates in these cycles, they
might possibly be mere coincidences, but where the agreements
of dates and events come by the dozens, they cannot possibly be by chance,
but must be by the design or plan of the only personal Being capable of such
a plan – Jehovah himself; and the chronology itself must be
right
.

In the passages of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh the
agreement of one or two measurements with the present-truth chronology might
be accidental, but the correspondency of dozens of measurements proves
that the same God designed both pyramid and plan
– and at the same time
proves the correctness of the chronology.

“The agreement of the chronology with certain measurements
of the Tabernacle and the Temple of Ezekiel further stamps the chronology
as true.

“It is on the basis of such and so many correspondencies
in accordance with the soundest laws known to science – that we affirm
that, Scripturally, scientifically and historically, present-truth
chronology is correct beyond a doubt.
Its reliability has
be abundantly confirmed by the dates and events of 1874, 1914, 1918
.
Present-truth chronology is a secure basis on which the consecrated child
of God may endeavor to search out things to come.” (A-15,16)cg11

And if anyone missed the point, the Watch Tower of July 15, 1922
under the subheading, “The Strong Cable of Chronology,”
said:

“There exist, however, well established relationships among
the dates of present-truth chronology. These internal connections of the
dates impart a much greater strength than can be found in other chronologies.
Some of them are of so remarkable a character as clearly to indicate that
this chronology is not of man, but of God. Being of divine origin
and divinely corroborated, present-truth chronology stands in a class by
itself, absolutely and unqualifiedly correct
.”

There can be no question about what is being said here. These dates are presented
as being absolutely true, and without question as
coming from God.
Furthermore, their accuracy does not depend
upon the predicted events associated with them coming
true
. And for any who doubt, this was ‘God’s way of sifting
out unworthy ones.’ Mind control techniques were certainly not unknown to
Joseph F. Rutherford!

These claims were made in 1922, three years before the predictions of 1925
were to occur. With these statements in mind, it boggles the mind to understand
how, in the year 1926 after the failure of all he predicted, the individual
responsible for such statements could stand up in public and pass them off
as “merely an expressed opinion.” Such dishonesty does not reflect favorably
upon the God he claims to represent. Neither does it inspire any confidence
in the Watchtower Society’s claimed role as “God’s prophet.” If this is
not prophesying falsely, what is
?

Thus far, the Watchtower Society has published four successive interpretations
of the book of Revelation. The Finished Mystery in 1917 was the
first. Next came Light in 1930, published in two volumes. Yet to
come were Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God’s Kingdom Rules, in
1963 and its companion Then Is Finished the Mystery of God in 1969,
and finally in 1988 Revelation, Its Grand Climax At Hand! Each
successive interpretation has had to revise and correct the errors in
understanding of the previous offering, as the outworking of history demonstrated
their predictions to be false. The prophecies in The Finished Mystery
were described as “established truths,” and “God’s dates, not mans.” But
now in the Light book, these “truths” were set aside with the following
explanation:

“For many years those who have loved God have sought for
an understanding of the prophecies, and particularly those written by Daniel
and Ezekiel, and those in Revelation. God has never been displeased
with this effort, as is indicated by the Scriptures; nor should it be expected
that God will permit the true understanding of these prophecies to be had
until his due time.” Light Vol. 2, page 295

While saying “God has never been displeased,” he never shares with us the
Scriptures that would establish such a claim. It is hard to imagine that
God would be pleased with a continual stream of misinformation, issued in
his name and proclaimed to be “positive and indisputable,” “established truth,”
and “God’s dates, not man’s.”

It would be one thing if they were to present such speculations
as possibilities, interesting topics for discussion and the like, to be
considered or accepted at the option of the individual. But when “God’s spirit
directed organization” makes proclamations of “established truth” which he
then “caused his angels to direct the preparation of exactly what was published,”
and which individuals are required to accept and believe on pain of expulsion,
that is quite another matter.

The comment in the March 15, 1986 Watchtower shows that the Society
is very sensitive to the accusation of being a false prophet. Any historical
review of their organization is always highly edited to make it appear that
any “mistakes” they may have made were always minor in nature. The book
Reasoning From The Scriptures defines “false prophets” as “Individuals
and organizations proclaiming messages that they attribute to a superhuman
source but do not originate with the true God and are not in harmony with
his revealed will.” They then list the following six points: (page 132)

1. “True prophets make known their faith in Jesus, but more
is required than claiming to speak in his name.”

2. “True prophets speak in the name of God, but merely claiming
to represent him is not enough.” (Deut. 18:18-20) [It seems significant here
that they stop their quote at verse 20; verses 21 and 22 are devastating
to the Society’s position]:

18 “A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of
their brothers, like you [Moses]; and I shall indeed put my words in his
mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him.
19 And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he
will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him. 20 However,
the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded
him to speak 22 or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must
die. 21 And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the
word that Jehovah has not spoken?” 22 When the prophet speaks in the name
of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that
is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet
spoke it
. You must not get frightened at him.” Deuteronomy 18:18-22
NIV

3. “Ability to perform “great signs,” or “miracles,” is not
necessarily proof of a true prophet.”

4. “What true prophets foretell comes to pass, but they may
not understand just when or how it will be.”

Prov. 4:18: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright
light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly
established.”

“Nathan the prophet encouraged King David to go ahead with
what was in his heart regarding the building of a house for Jehovah’s worship.
But later Jehovah told Nathan to inform David that he was not the one who
would build it. Jehovah did not reject Nathan for what he had said earlier
but continued to use him because he humbly corrected the matter when Jehovah
made it plain to him.”

These statements require comment. Proverbs 4:18 is regularly used to create
the perception that it is normal to be constantly having “new truths” revealed
through God’s organization. That in fact is taken by witnesses as “proof”
of God’s favor. But a look at the context makes it quickly apparent that
what is being discussed here is not progressive revelation of truth, but
the outcome of life courses; the wicked one who stumbles in the gloom of
wicked practices contrasted with the righteous one whose life reflects the
light of God’s ways. Even in the case of progressive revelation by God as
with the things revealed about the Messiah, never was there any misinformation
revealed, or prophecies that did not come true.

When Nathan first talked to David, it is obvious from the context that he
did not do so as a prophet speaking an inspired prophecy. He merely assented
with David’s expressed desire to build a temple to Jehovah, something Nathan
also desired. That very night Nathan received a word from Jehovah, which,
speaking as a prophet, he conveyed to David.

5. “The pronouncements of a true prophet promote true worship
and are in harmony with God’s revealed will.”

6. “True prophets and the false can be recognized by the
fruitage manifest in their lives and in the lives of those who follow them.”

“Have not Jehovah’s Witnesses made errors in their teachings?”
“Jehovah’s Witnesses do not claim to be inspired prophets. They have made
mistakes. Like the apostles of Jesus Christ, they have at times had some
wrong expectations.” -Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6

“The Scriptures provide time elements related to Christ’s
presence, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have studied these with keen interest.
Jesus also described a many-featured sign that would tie in with the fulfillment
of time prophecies to identify the generation that would live to see the
end of Satan’s wicked system of things. Jehovah’s Witnesses have pointed
to evidence in fulfillment of this sign….. ”

“Matters on which corrections of viewpoint have been needed
have been relatively minor when compared with the vital Bible truths that
they have discerned and publicized….”

 

I would like to comment on this last section. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not
claim to be inspired prophets such as Jeremiah or Daniel did. What they claim
to be is “spirit directed” ones who by means of holy spirit give Jehovah’s
interpretation of prophecies already recorded in the Scriptures. But the
“mistakes” they have made are not at all like the ones made by the disciples
of Jesus. The apostles had misconceptions about various matters and had to
be corrected by Jesus. Luke 19:11 says that the apostles “were imagining
that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.” But Jesus,
knowing what they were imagining, corrected them on the spot – they
didn’t publish false prophecy for many years
.

Acts 1:6 says that they asked “Lord, are you restoring the Kingdom to Israel
at this time?” Again Jesus corrected them on the spot, not allowing
them to preach it for 50 years
, and then went on to say: “It does
not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father
has placed in his own jurisdiction.” In other words, he made it plain to
them that it was not their proper concern to be trying to
figure out when the Kingdom was going to be established.

The remainder of the chapter attempts to defend their time element prophecies
related to predicting the generation in which Christ would return, something
that our Lord has told us in effect is none of our business. It is therefore
no wonder that their time prophecies have not worked out. Jesus plainly said
that he would return at a time which “you do not know.”
And how true his words have proven to be.

What is deceiving about this whole presentation is that they ignore the plain
Scriptural criteria for distinguishing between true and false prophets. The
first and obvious test is, does the prophecy come true? If it does not, “that
is not the word that Jehovah spoke;” he is a false prophet. If the prediction
did come true, then one applies the additional tests mentioned.
This would protect them against the false prophet who made a lucky guess.


What About Our Changing Doctrines?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are well conditioned to expect
constantly changing teachings. Being told that “the light gets brighter and
brighter,” they are always looking for “new light.” They expect it. Thus
whenever a teaching changes, they take this to be proof that “Jehovah is
leading them.” But what about when interpretations of scripture change radically
back and forth? Does that support the contention that God is “refining” their
teaching? Pastor Russell did not expect “new truths” revealed through his
channel to contradict “truths” revealed yesterday. Note his comments to that
effect:

“If we were following a man undoubtedly
it would be different with us; undoubtedly one human idea would contradict
another and that which was light one or two or six years ago would be regarded
as darkness now
; But with God there is no variableness, neither shadow
of turning, and so it is with truth; any knowledge or light coming from God
must be like its author. A new view of truth never can contradict a former
truth.
“New light” never extinguishes older
“light,” but adds to it…” — Zion’s Watch Tower, February,
1881, pg 3 (a-19)

And yet, this is exactly what has happened; new “truths”
have been introduced which contradicted what had been earlier proclaimed
as “truth.” An outstanding example of this can be found in the teachings
of the Society regarding the Great Pyramid of Giza.

For nearly fifty years, from 1879 through 1928, the
Society taught that the Pyramid was “God’s stone Witness and Prophet,” inspired
much like the Bible, and which should be studied by Christians in order to
gain knowledge of future events. The book Thy Kingdom Come
(Studies in the Scriptures, Vol 3), published by the Society in
1891, features numerous diagrams of pyramid chambers and passageways, along
with their measurements. Pyramid inches are translated into calendar years
in a complex timetable of the “Divine plan.” Chapter 10 of this book, titled
“The Testimony of God’s Stone Witness and Prophet, the Great Pyramid in Egypt,”
edition of 1903 says:

“…the Great Pyramid… seems in a
remarkable manner to teach, in harmony with all the prophets, an outline
of the plan of God, past, present, and future…” — Thy Kingdom Come,
page 314 (A-29)

Some might want to pass off this fascination with the
Pyramid of Giza as merely a quirk of the Society’s founder, Pastor Russell,
but note that after Russell’s death in 1916, the Society continued to teach
that God designed the Pyramid for prophetic purposes:

“In the passages of the Great Pyramid
of Gizeh the agreement of one or two measurements with the present-truth
chronology might seem accidental, but the correspondency of dozens of
measurements proves that the same God designed both pyramid and plan…”
Watchtower, June 5, 1922, page 187 (A-30)

“The great Pyramid of Egypt, standing as a silent
and inanimate witness of the Lord, is a messenger; and its testimony speaks
with great eloquence concerning the divine plan…” — Watchtower,
May 15, 1925, page 148 (A-30)

But then, in 1928, the Society completely reversed
its teaching on the pyramid. Now it was called “Satan’s Bible” and declared
that persons following pyramid teachings were “not following after
Christ”:

“If the pyramid is not mentioned in
the Bible, then following its teachings is being led by vain philosophy and
false science and not following after Christ.” — Watchtower, November
15, 1928, page 341 (A-31)

“It is more reasonable to conclude that the
great pyramid of Gizeh as well as the other pyramids thereabout, also the
sphinx, were built by the rulers of Egypt and under the direction of Satan
the Devil… Then Satan put his knowledge in dead stone, which may be called
Satan’s Bible, and not God’s stone witness…” — Watchtower, November
15, 1928, page 344 (A-31)

One can find other examples. One of which I was acutely
aware was the teaching regarding the “superior authorities” of Romans chapter
13. Back in Russell’s time, this was understood to refer to the civil rulers.
During Rutherford’s tenure as president, the understanding was changed; holy
spirit “refined” their understanding and they began teaching that the “superior
authorities” were Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. This “truth” was taught until
1962 when holy spirit again “refined” their viewpoint and it was understood
once again that the “superior authorities” were indeed the civil authorities
and rulers of this system. (See A-26, A-27)

All of this presents a problem to the individual Witness
who is concerned that his teaching be in accord with the Bible. Even if his
study of the Bible convinces him that the position of the organization is
in error, he is obligated to teach the organizational
understanding.(5) Note the comment to this
effect in the Watchtower of Feb 1, 1952, pg 79, 80:

“If we do not see a point at first we should keep trying to grasp
it, rather than opposing and rejecting it and presumptuously taking the position
that we are more likely to be right than the discreet slave. We should meekly
go along with the Lord’s theocratic organization and wait for further
clarification, rather than balk at the first mention of a thought unpalatable
to us and proceed to quibble and mouth our criticisms and opinions as though
they were worth more than the slave’s provision and not be so foolish as
to pit against Jehovah’s channel their own human reasoning and sentiment
and personal feelings.”

A Muslim proverb puts the thought this way:

“The advantage a man retains from the error of the sheik, if he be
wrong, is greater than the advantage he retains from his own righteousness,
if he be right.”

But in all honesty, how could holy spirit “reveal” an incorrect understanding
of scripture through his “channel,” only to change it back again a few years
later and call it “new light?”

A similar circumstance can be found with regard to the question of whether
the men of Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected. In the Watchtower
of July 1879, page 8 it was “yes.” Then in the Watchtower of June
1, 1952, page 338 it became “no.” The answer again became “yes” on August
1, 1965, page 479. And currently, according to the June 1, 1988
Watchtower, the answer is once again “no.” (See A-21 to A-25)

Another interpretation which has changed several times involves the image
Daniel 2. In Russell’s day it was understood to be a succession of world
powers beginning with Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold. But Rutherford,
in his book Light, Vol 2, page 298, said that it pictures “Satan’s
organization, both visible and invisible.” Rather than depicting four succeeding
world powers, the head represents “Lucifer” (Satan), the breast and arms
represents invisible demon princes, the belly and thighs represents evil
angels. The legs of iron were all visible governments, and the feet were
commercial, political, and religious elements. But that interpretation
contradicts the plainly stated explanation in the scripture.
Subsequent “adjustments” in understanding have returned to the previous
understanding.

“You yourself are the head of gold. and after you there will
rise another kingdom inferior to you; and another kingdom, a third one, of
copper, that will rule over the whole earth. And as for the fourth kingdom,
it will prove to be strong like iron.” — Daniel 2:38-40 NW

And consider the Society’s understanding of “fornication” and “adultery.”
Prior to 1972 they had understood this to be limited to illicit sexual relations
between a man and woman. Homosexual acts or bestiality were not included
and thus could not be grounds for divorce, (this in spite of the teaching
in Romans chapter 1.) Because of this legalistic view of matters, many sisters
who remarried after divorcing homosexual husbands were
disfellowshipped.(6)

It is hard for me to understand how one can characterize such reversals of
understanding as “minor” when they affect something as basic as how we view
governmental rulers, or which can inflict as much emotional pain, guilt,
and mental anguish as in the case of the aforementioned sister. Yet the
Watchtower of December 1, 1981, page 81 describes such “adjustments”
of understanding as “tacking” as when a sailboat tacks back and forth so
as to make forward progress into the wind:

“At times explanations given by Jehovah’s visible organization
have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has
not actually been the case. This might be compared to what is known in
navigational circles as “tacking.” By maneuvering the sails the sailors can
cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making
progress toward their destination in spite of contrary winds…” —
Watchtower, December 1, 1981, page 27 (A-33)

The same issue of the Watchtower elaborated on this process:

“Such adjustments might be said to follow a principle that
has been said to govern the progress of scientific truth. In brief, it works
something like this: at first there is a proposition made that is subject
to argumentation. It holds out great possibilities for enlightenment or practical
application. But then in time it is seen to have certain flaws or weaknesses.
So the tendency is to go to a proposition at the opposite extreme. Later
it is found that that position does not represent the whole truth either,
and so there is a combining of the valid points in both positions.” —
Watchtower, December 1, 1981, page 28 (A-34)

It is certainly true that scientific progress does often proceed in such
a manner toward a greater understanding of truth. But scientists
do not claim to be “God’s channel of communication” to mankind for
truth
. The Watchtower Society does. And
if it stops short of claiming to be “inspired,” it has no such scruples against
claiming to be “spirit directed” – whatever the difference is. One wonders
whether they are claiming that God’s spirit isn’t sure and has to experiment,
or if they are actually admitting that these teaching decisions that they
make are actually just the product of human thinking, just like the scientist
who tries to learn from his experiments and observations about nature. But
even with such “wavering” the article goes on to assert:

“But Jehovah God has also provided is visible organization,
his “faithful and discreet slave,” made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help
Christians in all nations to understand and properly apply the
Bible
in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel
of communication that God is using
, we will not progress along the road
to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.” —
Watchtower, December 1, 1981, page 27 (A-33)

“Of course, such development of understanding, involving
“tacking” as it were, has often served as a test of loyalty
for those associated with the “faithful and discreet slave.”” —
Watchtower, December 1, 1981, page 31

So no matter how much in error the “slave” may be it is of no consequence.
No matter how much our lives may be damaged by their “tacking,” we are still
obligated to accept them in their role as the dispenser of “truth” in the
earth. Truth comes only through them; it does not have anything to do with
how much Bible study we do.

The first article in that Watchtower concerns the progressive
revelations of God’s purpose throughout the period of Bible writing and how
God’s purpose was unfolded over a period of time to mankind. They make a
point of showing the misunderstandings that men had regarding God’s purpose
at various times in history, and they try to put the ever changing doctrines
of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that context. However in doing so they overlook
one important fact: at no time did God’s holy spirit reveal wrong or incorrect
information either to the Bible writers or to individual servants of God.
When information was revealed, it was always correct. Furthermore, when Jesus’
disciples misunderstood something, it was not because incorrect information
had been previously “revealed;” it was just a human speculation which Jesus
immediately corrected.

What we are seeing with regard to the Watchtower Society, are changing
doctrines
, which are claimed to be teachings from Jehovah through
his appointed channel of communication; and which have to be changed again
because they are demonstrated to be in error. This they call “tacking.” However
a more accurate description might be what is said in Ephesians 4:14,
“…tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every
wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in
contriving error
.” Or as The Living Bible paraphrases it:
“…forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone
has told us something different, or has cleverly lied to us and made the
lie sound like the truth.”

With regard to the matter of changing one’s beliefs, the Watchtower
in its May 15, 1976 issue said:

“It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then
find that our understanding of the major teachings and fundamental doctrines
of the Scriptures was in error, and then after that, to go back to the very
doctrines that, by years of study, we had thoroughly determined to be in
error. Christians cannot be vacillating — “wishy-washy” — about such
fundamental teachings. What confidence can one put in the sincerity or judgment
of such persons?” — Watchtower, May 15, 1976, page 298 (A-34)

This is said in the context of the exodus of many Witnesses after the
disappointment of 1975. The question these statements raise is what would
they say about a person who was raised in a Witness household, who left the
organization and became a member of some other religion, only to return to
the Witnesses after a number of years? Would they then label him as
“wishy-washy?” Or what if a person left the Witnesses after 1976 as a result
of a thorough re-examination of the “proofs” regarding the imminence of the
end of the system which convinced him that date setting was not scripturally
proper? Is that being “wishy-washy” or is it instead being “open minded to
additional information?” Is it fair to question the sincerity of a person
who is willing to change his belief if he feels proven wrong by Scripture?


The Disappointment of 1975:

It was the events of the seventies that challenged
my faith in the organization. I can still remember the talk at the assembly
in Florida in 1966 which announced the end of six thousand years of human
existence in the fall of 1975. Even as they said it, the words of Jesus flashed
through my mind: “no one knows the day or the hour” and
it does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or the
seasons
which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” I
remember thinking “I sure hope the organization doesn’t get carried away
with this.” But carried away they did get. What started out as a “possibility”
soon became a matter of high “probability.” As the time approached, the
organization geared up for the “last big push” in the preaching activity
before Armageddon. Record numbers were being baptized. Excitement was
building.

At assemblies and in the literature, the date 1975
was constantly highlighted. The Circuit and District Overseers were talking
it up. For example, I remember our Circuit Overseer (who had close relations
with brothers in high positions at Bethel) saying while in service, “We can’t
say this from the platform, but Fred Franz thinks that the end will actually
come in 1974!” (I wondered about that at the time and have since learned
that it was true, but Brother Knorr didn’t want to change the date for fear
of `upsetting the brothers.'”)

An instructor from the Kingdom Ministry School asked
the elders in attendance: “How many of you really believe
what the Society is saying about 1975? Then what are you doing in your
comfortable jobs and in your comfortable homes? Why not get rid of all that
stuff and get out into the pioneer work for the last few years of this old
system.?” The Kingdom Ministry of May, 1974 echoed his words:

“Reports are heard of brothers selling their
homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this
old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend
the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end -1 John 2:17
(A-36)

 

Many sold their homes, quit their jobs, cashed in their
life insurance or other assets in order to do so. All of this was seen by
many as indisputable evidence of Jehovah’s divine favor and leading. Eventually
I found myself being swept along by the euphoria to some degree, although
thank God I didn’t give in to the pressure to quit my job as some did.

The failure of the “end” to arrive was a great
disappointment to many people. Many left the organization. It became apparent
by their conduct that many of those who had become Witnesses seemed to have
done so for the wrong reasons. In our congregation we were kept so busy dealing
with the many problems that some of these brought into the congregation that
I really didn’t have much time to consider the overall implications of 1975.
But in the meantime, I was reassured by what seemed to me to be a return
to the basic matters of Christianity. During the late 70’s there were many
fine articles about attending to family matters, personal spiritual growth,
and our developing more fully the fruitages of the spirit in our lives. We
were “not serving with a date in mind, but with eternity in view.” I especially
appreciated the articles on conscience and not being judgmental with regard
to the faith of our Christian brothers. I thought we had finally learned
our lesson about setting dates.

There was one disturbing thought, however, early in
1976. That was the Society’s “apology” over the matter of 1975. The
Watchtower of July 15, 1976 said by way of explanation of the failure
of expectations:

“What, then does this mean? Simply this: That
these factors, and the possibilities for which they allow, prevent us from
saying with any positiveness how much time elapsed between Adam’s creation
and that of the first woman. We do not know whether it was a brief time such
as a month, or a few months, a year or even more. But whatever time elapsed
would have to be added to the time that was passed since Adam’s creation
in order for us to know how far along we are within God’s seventh `day,’
his grand day of rest.” -page 437 (A-35)

“We may be forgetting that, when the `day’ comes,
it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care
of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through
not following this line of thought
, he should now concentrate on
adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word
of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that
his own understanding was based on wrong premises.” -page
441 (A-35)

At first I tried to accept that explanation, that the
Society had merely suggested that the end of the system
might come as early as 1975. Their explanation also implied
that the interval between 1975 when the seventh millennium began and end
would be equal to the time between Adam’s creation and Eve’s creation, which
could be only a matter of a few years. Meanwhile, I was encouraged by the
seeming return to a longer term viewpoint of our dedication to God. A fellow
elder and I talked about the matter on several occasions. Once when I mentioned
that the Society had not really said the end would come in 1975, he said:
“That’s not really true.” Then he reminded me of a talk which Fred Franz
had given at a Gilead graduation in which he made very positive statements
regarding 1975. To refresh my memory I made a review of the many things published
about 1975. I offer the following for your consideration:

Life Everlasting in freedom of the Sons of God, 1966 -page 28, 29:

“Since the time of Ussher intensive
study of Bible chronology has been carried on… According to this trustworthy
Bible chronology six thousand years from man’s creation will end in 1975,
and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in
the fall of 1975… So in not many years within our own generation we are
reaching what Jehovah God could view as the seventh day of mans existence.

“How appropriate it
would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand
years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the
proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants… It
would not be by mere chance or accident but would be
according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign
of Jesus Christ, the “Lord of the sabbath,” to run parallel
with the seventh millennium, of man’s existence.”
(A-37)

Awake, October 8, 1966: “How Much Longer Will It Be?”

“Does God’s rest day parallel the time man has
been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. From the
most reliable investigations of Bible chronology, harmonizing with many accepted
dates of secular history, we find that Adam was created in the autumn of
the year 4026 B.C.E. Sometime in that same year Eve could
well have been created, directly after which God’s rest day commenced. In
what year, then would the first 6,000 years of man’s existence and
also the first 6,000 years of God’s rest day come to an
end? The year 1975. This is worthy of notice, particularly in view of the
fact that the “last days” began in 1914, and that the physical facts of our
day in fulfillment of prophecy mark this as the last generation of this wicked
world. So we can expect the immediate future to be filled with thrilling
events
for those who rest their faith in God and his promises. It
means that within relatively few years we will witness the
fulfillment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the ‘time of
the end.'” (A-38)

Watchtower, May 1, 1968:

“The immediate future is
certain
to be filled with climactic
events, for this old system is nearing its complete end. Within a
few years at most
the final parts of Bible prophecy relative
to these “last days” will undergo fulfillment, resulting in the liberation
of surviving mankind into Christ’s glorious 1,000 year reign. What difficult
days, but, at the same time, what grand days are just ahead!” (A-39)

(Twenty-two years later one might ask what does “the
immediate future” mean? How many years are “a few years at most?”)

Now 48 years later!  – Editor

Awake, October 8, 1968: “What Will the 1970’s Bring?”

“The fact that fifty-four years of the period
called the `last days’ have already gone by is highly significant. It means
that a few years, at most, remain before the corrupt system
of things dominating the earth is destroyed by God… There is another way
that helps confirm the fact that we are living in the final few
years
of this `time of the end.’ (Dan. 12:9) The Bible shows that
we are nearing the end of a full 6,000 years of human history.”
(A-38)

The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years, 1969 by Fred Franz:

“More recently earnest researchers of the Holy
Bible have made a recheck of its chronology. According to their calculations
the six millenniums of mankind’s life on earth would end in the mid-seventies.
Thus the seventh millennium from man’s creation by Jehovah God would begin
within less than ten years.” page 25

“In order for the Lord Jesus Christ
to be “Lord even of the sabbath day,” his thousand-year reign would have
to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums. Thus
it would be a sabbatic reign.” page 26 (Note – this booklet no longer
published.)

While it must be admitted that such statements were
usually accompanied by cautionary phrases such as “we are not saying positively,”
yet it is understandable why brothers were excited by such information. These
statements were clearly designed to excite enthusiasm.

I find it hard to believe that the members of the Governing
Body did not realize to what extent that the euphoria and excitement was
building among the rank and file Witnesses. They are constantly in touch
with the traveling representatives who report back to them on what is happening
among the congregations. Actually they fed the excitement rather than cooling
it down. It is obvious that most of them really believed, and were as excited
as everybody else. They don’t live in a vacuum. They have their friends and
associates, and their private comments get repeated. And Bethel has its
“Groupies.” They hang on every word of the members of the Governing Body
and rush to the phone to spread the word of a new and exciting rumor. I know,
I was there. In reality, it was really the Society itself that promoted the
expectations about 1975. Consider this item:

Watchtower, August 15, 1968:

“One thing is absolutely certain,
Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six
thousand years of man’s existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation!
This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This
is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that “concerning that
day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the
Son, but only the Father.”
To the contrary, it is a time when one
should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is
rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is
sufficient that the Father himself knows both the “day and hour”! page 500
(A-42)

Commented former Governing Body member Raymond Franz:

“How could a “faithful and discreet slave” possibly
say this — in effect, say that, “True, my master said thus and so, but
don’t make too much of that
; to the contrary, realize that what
I am telling you should be the guiding force in your
life
?” Crisis of Conscience, pg 205

So the question really becomes, was it really divine
direction that led to the announcement in 1966 about the 1975 chronology?
Was it divine direction that led them to fan the flames of excitement throughout
the early seventies?


Does the Bible Teach That We Can Figure Out When the
End will Come?

Is it Scripturally proper to be setting dates for the
end of the system? Is it really just a matter of being a little “over anxious”
to see the end of wickedness and the righteous new order established? That
seems to be the Society’s thinking on the matter. Note what they say in the
Watchtower of December 1, 1984:

“Christendom’s churches have abandoned the Christian
watchfulness that Jesus ordered his disciples never to neglect. They are
no longer on the alert for Christ’s presence and the coming of God’s Kingdom.
They have rationalized away expectation of “the conclusion
of the system of things” or the “end of the world.” -Page 4

“In the 19th century, several such
groups appeared… The mainstream churches, for whom any teaching on the
“Last Things” had become meaningless, despisingly called such groups adventists
or millennialists, because such groups were on the watch for Christ’s second
advent and believed that Christ was due to reign for a thousand years.” -page
13, par. 16

“Naturally, the more established Christian
churches rejoiced when these predictions turned out to be erroneous. To be
sure, the Catholic, Orthodox and principal Protestant Churches made no such
mistakes. for them, the teaching on the “Last Things” was “meaningless.”
They had long since ceased to “keep on the watch.”” -page 13, par.
17

“From its first year of publication
this magazine pointed forward, by sound Scriptural reckoning, to the date
1914 as an epoch-making date in Bible chronology. So when Christ’s invisible
presence began in 1914, happy were those Christians to have been found watching.”
p.14

“True, the Bible students who wrote
those articles did not, at that time, enjoy the precise Biblical
and historical understanding
of what the end of those “appointed
times of the nations” would actually mean, as we understand these
things today
. But the important point is that they were “on the
watch” and helped to keep fellow Christians spiritually alert.” — Pages
16, 17

“It is easy for the established churches
of Christendom and other people to criticize Jehovah’s Witnesses because
their publications have, at times, stated that certain things
could take place on certain dates.
But is not such line of
action in harmony with Christ’s injunction to “keep on the
watch”? -page 18

It has to be acknowledged that often it has not been
a matter of “could” take place, but, (as I was to learn later),
emphatically would take place, especially with regard to
1914, 1918, 1920, and 1925. The above article expresses the opinion that
having definite expectations as to when Christ will return
and establish his Kingdom is the equivalent of “being on the watch”; conversely
to not do that means that one has “rationalized away” expectation of the
end of “the system of things.” This absolutist way of viewing matters, I
believe, puts one on the horns of a false dilemma. It is
not an “either or” situation. One does not have to be at one extreme or else
the other extreme. There exists a continuum of positions in between, and
the task of the Christian who wants to please God is to see where the
Scriptures, not the Watchtower Society, advise a Christian
to be.

It should be obvious that Jesus did not approve of
“rationalizing away” the expectation of his return, else why would he have
advised his followers to “keep on the watch?” But where does it say in the
Scriptures that you have to set dates, or have a firm idea as to
when he will return?
Why cannot a Christian be “on the
watch,” living each day of his life so as to be “ready”
regardless of when the Lord should return,
whether it be the next day or the next century? I believe the following
Scriptures can give us a feel for whether or not we should allow ourselves
to be convinced about knowing the timing of Jesus return, or how we should
react to someone who says he has it all figured out.

“Concerning that day or the hour nobody
knows,
neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.
Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed
time is
. It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and
gave authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper
to keep on the watch. Therefore keep on the watch (why?), for you
do not know when the master of the house is coming
, whether late
in the day or at midnight or at cockcrowing or early in the morning; in order
when he arrives suddenly, he does not find you sleeping.
But what I say to you I say to all, keep on the watch.”
-Mark 13:32-37 NW

“When, now they had assembled, they
went asking him: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
He said to them: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times
or seasons
(appointed times – Interlinear NW) which the Father has
placed in his own jurisdiction
.”” — Acts 1:6,7 NW

“He said: “Look out that you are not
misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, `I am
he,’ and, `The due time has approached.’ Do not go after
them.
“” — Luke 21:8 NW

The Watchtower Society seems to feel that they
can figure out the timing of Christ’s return beforehand.
In fact they have been saying for some years now that he has already
returned. Recently they have had to admit error in their predictions
for 1975. Their explanation for the failure of their 1975 expectations is
that they cannot determine the time interval between Adam’s creation and
that of Eve. However, their argument is flawed for the following reason:
the Scripture says that neither Jesus nor the angels know the “day or hour.”
If it were merely a matter adding 6000 years to the date of Eve’s creation,
both Jesus and the angels would have known when the end would come, because
they were witnesses of the creation. But the Scripture is clear that they
did not know.

There are many areas in which the chronology can go
wrong. Even the supposition of the 7,000 year periods is arrived at by deductive
reasoning. There is no direct Scriptural support for that conclusion. However
there is really no point in trying to figure it out at all, since it is clear
from Jesus’ words that the time is unknowable. In fact that
is the whole point of the parable of the virgins; that one must be ready
throughout one’s entire lifetime because the time of the bridegrooms coming
is unknown. Also Luke 21:8, (a Scripture that has not been quoted by Watchtower
publications since 1964) warns against following those who announce,
The due time has approached.” That, I believe, is exactly
what the Watchtower Society has been doing since the very beginning of its
history.

There is another problem with claiming to be God’s
channel and to know the appointed time. When one makes claims
in God’s name, as his appointed representative, which go unfulfilled, does
that honor God or dishonor him? When these unfulfilled promises are said
to be guaranteed by God’s word, does that build faith in God’s Word? In reality,
date setting can lead to disappointment, and in fact, can interfere with
Christian growth.

The “apology” of 1976 was really no apology at all.
It was a case of “blame the victim.” Rather than accept the responsibility,
they blamed the individual Witnesses who believed them. This evidently was
unacceptable to many Witnesses since many, many persons wrote the Society
saying that it was the Society who really encouraged them to believe the
end would come in or shortly after 1975. In the March 15, 1980
Watchtower they were finally forced to admit:

 

“There were statements made then, and
thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however,
along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published
that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a
probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter
statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to
buildup of the expectation already initiated.”

“In its issue of July 15, 1976, The
Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights
on a certain date, stated: `If anyone has been disappointed…’ In saying
`anyone,’ The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah’s
Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the
information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that
date.”

The article then goes on to discuss the matter of serving
God without a specific date in mind, but keeping close in mind the “presence
of the day of Jehovah.” “It is not a certain date ahead; it is day-to-day
living on the part of the Christian that is important.” It is commendable
that some comment finally was finally made, although regrettable that it
took five years to do it. Yet it was a classic case of “too little too late,”
because in the interim, hundreds of thousands left the organization,
disillusioned. Thousands of brothers were left to try to reconstruct their
family and financial life, deep in debt after having given up their jobs
and any hope of pension, many even losing their homes. Others delayed necessary
medical treatment until too late.

Yet for awhile I felt encouraged, that we had “turned
it around” and were back on track with a more Scriptural long-term viewpoint
of our service to God. The new atmosphere of being more tolerant of the
consciences of others and not being judgmental of our Christian brothers
was a welcome relief. It was as if a window had been opened and fresh air
rushed in. In such an atmosphere it was easier to bury the doubts and
disappointments of the past and look ahead to the future.


Shepherds of the Flock:

But in 1980 the window was slammed shut. At the Kingdom
Ministry school that year for elders, we started hearing a new hard line.
We began hearing the word “apostasy” and stern new instructions about
disfellowshipping. It seemed to me that our instructor was pleased at the
new tack the organization was taking. I can remember an elder remarking to
me during a break, “I hope we are not going back in that direction again.”
Little did we know. Coincidentally, about that time,
Allen(7), an aggressive young elder, moved
into our congregation, at the suggestion of the Circuit Overseer. I thought
that Allen’s viewpoints, which seemed extreme to me, were merely his personal
ideas; but I soon began reading what he was promoting in the
Watchtower. In retrospect, I now realize that through his close
contacts with various Circuit Overseers he was getting “advance information”
about the direction the organization was proceeding.

I soon found myself increasingly at odds with some elders over things we
were required to do as elders. I was being pressured by the organization
to do things that bothered my conscience. Particularly with regard to “marking”
and disfellowshiping did I feel uncomfortable; it was not that I disagreed
with the Scriptural in 1 Corinthians relative to unrepentant persons who
practice gross immorality, rather it was the expanding of the practice to
include matters for which there was no clear Scriptural precedent. To apply
the sanction of disfellowshipping to an individual is not an action to be
taken lightly. Such action can have profound implications for the lives of
individuals and their families. Watchtower articles have often likened
disfellowshipping to death by stoning in ancient Israel. Yet I noticed that
some elders took a cavalier attitude, as though it were akin to hitting a
mule over the head just “to get his attention.” One elder even said, “What’s
the big deal, we can always reinstate him in a few months?” In order to make
such decisions which had great impact on people’s lives, I felt that I had
to make sure of just what the Scriptures taught about such matters. After
all, I had to take responsibility before Jehovah for my actions. I needed
more than just an organizational directive. I needed to be convinced by the
Scriptures that such action in a particular case was both Scriptural and
justified.

The first conflict arose when a young woman who had moved into our congregation
to attend the university became engaged to a young man of another religion.
Several elders felt that because she was disregarding the counsel to marry
“only in the Lord,” she should be
“marked”(8) in accordance with 2 Thessalonians
3:14. While I could see a need to counsel her, I could not justify the action
some brothers wanted to take towards her. It could only drive her away, not
build her up spiritually. Several of us asked the District Overseer for guidance
in the matter. He agreed that we should counsel her, but that was as far
as we should go. He said that while such a course may impose its own penalties
in her life, there was no Scriptural sanction that the Congregation could
apply to her. I can appreciate that some families on an individual
basis
may see a need to restrict their teen-age daughters’ association
with someone in that situation because of the possibility of being influenced
to do the same; but making it a congregational matter prevents
those who might be able to be a friend to her and provide good association
with her from doing so.

But the District Overseer’s counsel didn’t seem to satisfy Allen. Some elders
even implied that the District Overseer was not up to date on the Society’s
policy. They kept pursuing the matter, even making it a matter of “loyalty
to the organization” until the other elders finally gave in. In retrospect,
I sometimes wonder how much Allen really cared about helping the young woman.
He seemed more interested in “winning” — over the other elders and probably
me in particular. I’m sure that if she had called off the engagement he probably
would have dropped the matter. I didn’t really care whether Allen “won” and
I “lost.” I didn’t even care whether he managed to get me removed as an elder.
But I did care what happened to the young woman. I liked her, and I wish
we had been better able to help her. But I’m afraid we just didn’t have the
answer. I am just now beginning to understand why. Still, she deserved better
than what she got.

I spent many hours studying the matter of marking. The Society used to recognize
Paul’s counsel in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 to be a personal taking note by individual
Christians of persons walking disorderly. But in the February 1, 1982 Questions
from Readers, we received a “refinement” on the matter. Now the elders would
decide for the entire congregation when one was to be marked. They would
then give a talk, not mentioning the person by name, but making it plain
to the congregation what conduct was being referred to so that those in the
congregation would know who was being marked.

Further comment on the matter was made in the April 15, 1985 Questions from
Readers. The question considered was, “If a Christian feels that someone
in the congregation is not the best of association because of that person’s
conduct or attitude, should he personally `mark’ that
individual
in accord with 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15?” The answer was
that “marking” was a congregational matter to be initiated by the Elders.
They went on to say:

“On occasion, however, someone may have an attitude or way
of life of which we personally do not approve. The apostle Paul wrote about
some in Corinth whose personal views about the resurrection
were not right and who may have had an `eat, drink, and be merry’ attitude.
Mature Christians in the congregation needed to be cautious about such ones,
for Paul advised: `Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful
habits.'”

“Consequently, marking should not be confused with a personal
or family application of God’s advice to avoid bad association,” making reference
to 1 Cor. 15:33.

But this new understanding does not seem square with the Scriptures. In his
second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was writing to the entire Congregation,
telling individual members to take note of those who were walking disorderly.
The example in question was the man who wouldn’t work but would rather mooch
off the rest. Nothing in what Paul says would suggest that the “marking”
was a matter to be decided by the elders and then imposed upon all in the
congregation to observe, rather than an individual “marking.” The problem
here is that if you hold “marking” to be a Congregational action to be initiated
by the elders, then on what Scriptural basis can individual families handle
problems such as undesirable playmates for their children within the
congregation? That is what seems to have elicited the question being considered.

To allow for this, they resort to Paul’s comment at 1 Corinthians 15:33,
“bad associations spoil useful habits.” However, this introduces a serious
inconsistency in the Society’s viewpoint of the relative seriousness of various
transgressions, because their explanation really ignores the context of 1
Corinthians 15. The way the article is written, it sounds like having “personal
views about the resurrection” that “were not right” is on a par with minor
matters less serious than being lazy and unwilling to work. However, from
the context of Paul’s remarks, he is clearly talking about something far
more serious than “youngsters, who may not take the truth seriously or may
be worldly minded.” Paul was addressing the subject of the resurrection.
The purpose of the discussion was to warn Christians not to be misled by
those who were saying that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” He goes
on to show that without a belief in a resurrection of the dead, then Christ
has not been raised up, and therefore “your faith is useless.” What could
be more central and important to our salvation than believing that Jesus
has been raised up so that we can have faith in his ransom sacrifice?

I bring this up, not to be “nit-picky,” but to illustrate how going beyond
the simplest and most obvious reading of a text and adding human rules and
constraints creates problems with the understanding of other Scriptures.
Taking the comments in their Question from Readers of 4/15/85 and 4/1/86
in the framework of their general view of disfellowshipping and “marking”
creates a curious inconsistency if you consider the context
of the Scriptures they use as proof texts. Of their view of the relative
seriousness of the transgressions discussed, one would have to conclude:
that saying that “the resurrection has already occurred,” (in other words
to be wrong about the time of the resurrection) is a disfellowshipping offense;
being too lazy to work and mooching off other members of the congregation
will get you publicly “marked” by the congregation; but denying the resurrection
and thus undermining the whole basis for the Christian faith merely makes
one “bad association” within the congregation! They seem to have it
backwards.

It seems clear to me that the Scriptures do not say what the Society is
interpreting them to mean. I have to conclude that the Society is clearly
“going beyond what is written” in the Scriptures regarding “marking.” I find
it hard to believe that Jehovah’s spirit directed the Society to make that
“refinement” in understanding. It is just this sort of thing that makes one
wonder about the validity of their claim of “spirit direction” in the matter
of interpretation of Scripture.

It is a widely held perception by Jehovah’s Witnesses, that God directs the
affairs of “his people.” The teaching that comes to them through the publications
of the Watchtower Society are seen as spiritual “food at the proper time,”
the real source of which is considered to be Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.
The counsel that they receive through the teaching of the Society’s traveling
representatives, as well as the elders in their local congregation is likewise
seen as coming from God, the only caveat being to be sure such teaching is
in accord with The Watchtower. I can remember many times at elders’
meetings, when a question would come up and some of us would be considering
the Scriptures to try to determine the course to be taken; someone would
invariably run to the library and pull out a Watchtower volume which
“had the answer.” Once the answer was read, you could put away your Bible
– the matter had been decided. No elder would ever contradict the answer
given in the Watchtower on the basis of anything he had read in
the Bible.

I saw this happen very often, and I began to wonder about it. I had always
believed that the ultimate authority was the Bible. Indeed, the Watchtower
Society uses the Bible to convince people of their authority. Why, then,
were people treating the Watchtower as a higher authority than the
Bible? And where was the holy spirit in all of this? The Apostle John wrote:
“Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you,
and you don’t really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches
you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you
a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in him.” — 1 John
2:27 Phillips

I have recently learned that the organization used to believe that the holy
Spirit directly taught individual Christians for nineteen centuries. However,
since the time of Rutherford’s presidency, they have taught that the holy
spirit no longer serves as a “paraclete,” or helper or teacher to the individual
Christian as it has during the past 19 centuries. Note the comments in
Preservation:

“During the absence of Jesus Christ in heaven those in line
for membership in the bride were left as orphans, the holy spirit being sent
to act as guardian and guide for such during that period…. Now it was this
“faithful servant” class, as the facts show, that the Lord used to minister
to those coming to a knowledge of the truth from and after 1918 and who responded
to the call for the kingdom.” — Preservation, page 21

“The holy spirit was given to the church at Pentecost to
perform the office of comforter, advocate and helper of and for the
spirit-begotten ones during the absence of Jesus Christ…

“These texts show that the holy spirit would and did perform
the office of helper, advocate and comforter of those who responded to the
call to the kingdom, and until the coming of Christ Jesus and the gathering
unto himself of his own…

“The Lord Jesus came to his temple in 1918, and that would mark the
time of the cessation of the work of the holy spirit as an advocate, helper
and comforter of the members of the church on earth.” —
Preservation, pages 201, 202

What Rutherford is actually saying here is that since 1918, when they suppose
that Jesus Christ had “come to his temple,” the function of the holy spirit
as a “paraclete” (helper, teacher) ceased to operate towards individual
Christians. From that time forward, Christ Jesus himself assumes the role
of teacher or helper, and that function proceeds through the “faithful class”
(now called “faithful and discreet slave”), which equates to the Watchtower
Society itself. My experience as an elder convinces me that this is what
elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe. Why else would they place
greater importance in a statement of policy in a Watchtower publication than
in the Word of God itself?

Nowhere is this concept more evident than in the flow of organizational authority
itself. The present elder arrangement dates from 1972, the result of a major
change in the way of governing the local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This was heralded as a move to get back to the way the early Christian
organization was organized. A very strong Scriptural case was made that “older
men” were to be appointed on the basis of their Scriptural qualification,
and all were to be equal in authority. Since that was not the way it was
being done among Jehovah’s Witnesses, it required some dramatic changes.
A case was also made for there being no permanent “chairman” but instead
a yearly rotation of the office of chairman. Other positions were to rotate
as well thus assuring that no one individual would permanently exercise power
(as had been the case in the past among Jehovah’s Witnesses), as a protection
from some individuals who were prone to abuse power.

This arrangement lasted several years, and then it was decided (for reasons
of expediency) that some positions should be permanent. It was amazing to
me how certain elders campaigned bitterly to get those positions that seemed
to be the real seats of power in the congregation. Then one by one all the
various positions in the congregation became permanent again. From its inception,
the elder arrangement was heralded as an arrangement directed by the holy
spirit. Elders were said to be appointed by holy spirit. To question their
position was to question Jehovah and his holy spirit. A Question from Readers,
Watchtower August 1, 1985, page 31 stated that if qualified elders
carefully considered the man to see that he fulfilled Scriptural qualifications,
then his appointment could be said to be by holy spirit.

But that was not always what was happening in the organization. One hears
too many accounts of elders who were not Scripturally qualified being appointed.
Yet the perception persists among elders that when they make a recommendation
and send it in to the Society, that since it is also prayerfully
considered by the Branch Committee who makes the appointment
, that
holy spirit somehow will oversee the whole procedure and see that only qualified
men are appointed
. Yet I began to wonder if that was really true.

Two incidents well illustrate this point. At an assembly, we heard about
a spy who was sent by the Communist party to infiltrate the organization
in East Germany. He progressed upwards in the organization to the position
of District Overseer, then turned in the names of all those in positions
of responsibility in East Germany. Didn’t the Holy Spirit who made those
appointments know that he wasn’t a real brother? In another incident, an
elder left his wife and ran off with a young pioneer sister. They were
disfellowshipped and moved to a distant part of the country. He was contacted
by Witnesses in door to door work, accepted a Bible study, began attending
meetings, and got baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness – again (without disclosing
his past). He was again serving as an elder when a Circuit Overseer who had
been reassigned from another part of the country recognized him. According
to Witness doctrine, he was appointed by Holy Spirit twice – once as a
Ministerial Servant, and then again as an Elder. I have a hard time believing
Holy Spirit had anything at all to do with that appointment. One cannot fool
the holy spirit, yet Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to do quite well at it if one
accepts their claim of spirit direction(9)
in the matter of the Governing Body’s appointment of elders.

My own personal experience while serving on the body of elders this out.
I remember a an elders’ meeting where we were considering a brother for
appointment as elder. I was aware of problems that might reflect adversely
on his meeting the Scriptural qualifications and expressed my concerns to
the other elders. One of the elders said, “But look at his service record!”
Since the Society seemed to be emphasizing service activity at that time,
the elders seemed determined to make the recommendation. Since I was trying
to be conciliatory, I told them that I would not make an issue of it if they
were really determined to recommend him. He was recommended and soon afterward
his appointment came through from the Society. It was but a matter of weeks
before his marriage broke up and the body felt obliged to remove him as an
elder. Where, one wonders, was the holy spirit when that appointment was
made? How can it be said that holy spirit directed that decision?

Another case in point involved a pioneer brother who had moved into our
congregation. During the Circuit Overseers’ visit, his name was brought up
for consideration to be appointed as an elder. Three of the four elders on
the body felt that this young man lacked the Scriptural qualifications be
appointed to such responsibility.

However the Circuit Overseer was in favor of appointing this brother, (for
reasons which I believe were more “political” than spiritual). I was beginning
to get the feeling that we were not going to get to go home that night until
we agreed to recommend appointment. The Circuit Overseer finally said, “Will
you brothers agree to sending it in as a recommendation if I include a statement
about your reservations?” Since none of us felt that the Society would appoint
someone under their recommended minimum age with 75% of the body holding
reservations about his Scriptural qualifications, and since it seemed obvious
that Circuit Overseer was determined to recommend him anyway, we reluctantly
agreed. When the Circuit Overseer left the congregation, he hadn’t finished
filling out all the forms, so he asked us to sign the blank Circuit Overseer’s
Visit Report form, and he would type in his comments later. He told us what
he was going to write down from a handwritten sheet he had. As trusting elders,
we did so. When the appointment came through, I put the matter aside and
tried to work with the brother as I would any elder.

Later on, just before I was removed as an elder, I got curious as to what
the Circuit Overseer had actually put in his recommendation to the Society.
So while I still had access to the files, I looked into the matter. I remembered
that he had specifically assured us that he would state our reservations
about the young brother’s age and experience to the Society. I was dumbfounded
to see that his actual written comment was simply, “Although only 27 years
of age, he acts and conducts himself as a true older man.” Not a word was
said about any of the elders having any reservations! I don’t see how the
Society, reading this report, would understand that any of the elders had
any reservations about this appointment. It seemed to me that he told us
he was going to write one thing, got us to sign a blank form, and then he
did something else.

I related this incident to an elder in a neighboring congregation and he
told me a similar tale of being asked to sign a blank piece of paper by this
same circuit overseer. He said that he would never do that again because
of a result similar to what I experienced.

What I wonder is whether these brothers really believe that holy spirit is
directing the activities of the organization. Do they suspect that it does
not and so they have to use “political” means to accomplish their objectives?
Or do they know that nothing will happen to them no matter what they do?
(One wonders if they have ever read the account of Ananias and Sapphira.)
I often wonder, but at any rate it casts doubt on whether holy spirit performs
any special function with respect to the appointments and directives of the
Governing Body.

Eventually, as a result of the continuous efforts of Allen and his Circuit
Overseer friend, I was removed as an elder. The District Overseer, after
reviewing the case and severely chastising the Circuit Overseer, suggested
that since there was really no reason I should have been removed, that I
could be reappointed after a ‘decent interval.’ Although several elders urged
me to ‘play the game,’ and get reappointed, I knew I could never do that.
I was already having serious doubts about some of the teachings of the
organization. I knew I could never do all the things that would be required
of me as an elder.

I was by that time seriously committed to a complete re-evaluation of my
religion. I had some real soul-searching to do.


God’s Exclusive Channel of Communication?

There were a number of serious questions bothering me that called into question
my faith in the Society as “God’s exclusive channel of communication” with
mankind. The matter of date setting was uppermost in my mind, especially
after the 1975 fiasco. Date setting has always been a fundamental feature
of our religion, since it grew out of the Second Adventist movement of the
early 19th century. The 1914 date for example came from second adventist
Barbour, not Russell. My earliest memories as a Witness in the early 1940’s
were of the expectation of the end coming very shortly. During the war years
witnesses were being arrested, mobbed, and imprisoned. The September 15,
1941 Watchtower said of the release of the Children
book:

“Receiving the gift, the marching children clasped it to
them, not a toy or plaything for idle pleasure, but Lord’s provided instrument
for most effective work in the remaining months before
Armageddon.”

At the St. Louis, Missouri assembly in 1941, Rutherford had made the claim
`that soon all Jehovah’s Witnesses would be locked up and then they could
intone “peace and safety” and then the end would come.’ (New World,
pg 104). Most of the young people were putting marriage off until “after
Armageddon.” The “AAA club” (Available After Armageddon) was fashionable
among young Witness sisters. Of course the end didn’t come, but the perception
that it would happen very soon was always prevalent.

At every assembly the closing talk was always an emotionally charged occasion,
much more so than assemblies now. It was always phrased, “We don’t know what
the immediate future will bring, but if there are assemblies
next year….
” Our horizon of life was always just a few short years
down the road, during which all were expected to keep up and if possible
increase the pace of activity until the end of the system. There was renewed
expectation during the late 1950’s. In fact looking back, it seems that almost
any noteworthy event in world affairs was enough to trigger excited expectation
in the minds of many Witnesses.

It was just before 1975 that I was forced to look more closely at the matter
of date setting. It was about that time that my wife and I were asked to
study with a young man whose father had been a Witness. This young man had
come to a point in his life where he felt the need of religion. But he was
afraid of accepting the faith based only on the fact that his father had
been a Witness, and wanted to make a thorough examination on his own. What
seemed important to him was the teaching on the “last days” and the fulfillment
of Matthew 24. What he focused on eventually was the Society’s interpretation
of wars, famines, pestilence, and earthquakes. He did a lot of historical
research to see if there really was any correlation. It was at this time
that I first realized how weak the Society’s arguments really were. (I didn’t
realize at that time how manipulative the statistics were or how misleading
the quotations from various scientists and historians were. That would come
later.) It soon became evident that people in practically any century could
make just as convincing a case. (In fact many groups throughout history have
done just that.) But what was still convincing to me was the chronology of
1914 which served as an anchor point in time from which to apply the “signs.”
It seemed to me that this was really the crucial point of evidence. Ultimately
he concluded that no one point proved the matter, but decided on the basis
of “preponderance of evidence.” I guess we both wanted to believe.

I know now that these and other questions were occurring to many Witnesses
throughout the world; they came about as individuals began to question what
they were seeing in the organization in the light of what they were reading
in the Bible. Many were independently coming to the same conclusions. It
would have been helpful to me and many others had the Society openly addressed
some of these questions.

When some in the Corinthian congregation questioned the doctrine of the
resurrection, rather than just throw them out in order to shut them up, Paul
gave convincing Scriptural argumentation to show the correctness of belief
in a resurrection. It would have been helpful had the Society done that.
Instead they conducted a witch hunt, first at Bethel, and then later throughout
the organization. Rather than answer questions honestly raised or present
sound Scriptural arguments to refute ideas they felt to be in error, they
chose to question the morals and integrity of those raising questions, even
when their questions were discussed with only one or two other persons. These
were vilified as “apostates” and deceitful persons wanting to subvert the
faith of others for dishonest gain. A Watchtower article on the
abuses of power by Religious Councils says of their use of the charge of
heresy:

“Charges of heresy proved to be a ruthless scheme to eliminate
opponents who dared to defy Christendom’s church councils. Any who expressed
differing opinions or even attempted to present Scriptural
proof
refuting the dogmas and canons (church laws) of the councils
were branded as heretics.” Watchtower May 15, 1986 page 25

Is that what is happening in the Watchtower organization today? I remember
an article in the Watchtower back in the 1950’s which took religious
organizations to task for saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses were bad people
and making slanderous accusations against them, rather than addressing the
issues they raised. The churches were compared to the Pharisees who vilified
Jesus for associating with sinners and the like, rather than answer the questions
raised. Is the Society now acting just like the Pharisees?

This was entirely unsatisfactory to me. Here I found myself a member of a
religion that advocated to others that if they were lovers of truth they
should be willing to examine their own religion and yet the leaders of my
religion were unwilling to make such an examination themselves. The time
had come for me to do what I had been exhorting others to do. Otherwise I
would have been guilty of doing what Paul said in Romans 2:21: “Do you, however,
the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?”

Oftentimes when someone questions the Society’s teaching or actions in a
matter, they are advised, “Be patient. Wait upon Jehovah to correct matters.
Do not `run ahead’ of Jehovah’s organization.” But what do they tell Lutherans
or members of other religious organizations who are upset with what their
church teaches or does — “Wait for God to change it?” Notice what the
Awake article “Future Prospects for Protestantism – And You” advised,
under the subheading “If Your Church Fails to Act, Will You?”:

“If, after making an honest investigation, you are less than
pleased with what you see, do more than just complain. A journalist, while
commenting on Karl Barth’s statement that a church is its members, logically
concluded: “Church members… are responsible for what the church says and
does.” So ask yourself: Am I willing to share responsibility for
everything my church says and does?
Can I really be proud
of having all its members as spiritual brothers?” –Awake, September
8, 1987 page 10

I had already done much research in the Society’s publications and in the
Scriptures themselves and this only served to raise more questions. My personal
copies of the Watchtower by the mid-1980’s contained copious notes
in the margins of Scriptures misapplied or used out of context to attain
some desired result in manipulating people. About this time I was distressed
by the realization that if the Watchtower’s time prophecies did not have
a sound Scriptural foundation, neither did their claim of being God’s “exclusive
channel of communication.” This clearly would be an important matter to research.
Unfortunately the historical data about the early history of the organization
is not available to contemporary Witnesses except in the Society’s version
of its own history (which proved to be neither accurate nor objective). It
was becoming obvious that I was only going to hear one side from the Society’s
literature. So I was going to have to search elsewhere.

The obvious place to start was Ray Franz’s book “Crisis of Conscience.” This
is an excellent account of his life-long experiences in the organization
and later on the governing body. It gives an interesting insight as to what
happened between 1971 and 1980 within the Governing Body and provides a detailed
account of the history of the organization and its doctrinal development,
particularly in regard to time calculation features. It also documents
the development of his own personal crisis with respect to the conflict between
the teachings of the organization and the Scriptures themselves which eventually
led to his personal “crisis of conscience.” It fairly presents information
which I feel is the right of every Witness to know about his religion.

With the failure of the expectations of 1975 and the growing awareness of
the untenability of the teaching about “the generation of 1914,” which has
all but disappeared, a number of Witnesses have independently done a great
deal of research into the matter of chronology and the time prophecies of
Jehovah’s Witnesses. Much controversy has surfaced regarding the 607 B.C.E.
date for the fall of Jerusalem and the related time calculation of the length
of the “Appointed Times of the Nations” which the organization holds to have
ended in 1914.

Much of Ray Franz’s problems with Watchtower teaching came as a direct result
of his research for the book Aid To Bible Understanding. This was
particularly the case with respect to chronology. Brother Knorr’s intentions
regarding the Aid book project were that it should be completed
quickly. But his instructions were stated in such a way that the brothers
assigned to the project thought it was to be a new independent study – not
a compilation of previous Watchtower articles. This misunderstanding
had profound consequences for the quality and direction of the research that
went into the work.


Is the Chronology of 1914 Accurate?

The Society’s accepted chronology has for years been
at odds with secular history on its dating of Bible events prior to 539 B.C.E.
(I had been aware of the difference, but I accepted the Society’s assertion
that the dating system of secular history for that era is sketchy, uncertain,
and without real substantiation.) Ray Franz and Charles Ploeger spent several
months searching the libraries in the New York area in an effort to find
any historical evidence to support the 607 date, without success. Their search
led them to Brown University where they talked to Dr. Abraham Sachs, a specialist
in cuneiform texts. It became evident that there was in fact overwhelming,
solid evidence that Jerusalem fell in 587, not 607 as Russell and Barbour
supposed. Since the Governing Body was unwilling to even consider that their
supposition might be wrong, Ray Franz was forced to merely suggest possible
weakness in archaeological evidence in general and hold to the Society’s
traditional position. Of the article on chronology that appeared in the
Aid book he later says: “The arguments I presented were honest ones,
but I know that their intent was to uphold a date for which there was no
historical support.”

Rather than honestly re-evaluate their teaching, the
governing body asked Ray to participate in what amounts to dishonest scholarship.
This contributed to Ray’s personal “crisis of conscience” and his eventual
separation from the Society. Even then, it was not his choice to leave. He
was thrown out in the most unjust manner I can imagine.

It is no wonder that the Society will not re-evaluate
the 607 date: it is the foundation of not only the 1914 date for the “end
of the gentile times” and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but also
of their own appointment as “faithful and discreet slave.”
It is the whole foundation for their spiritual authority over the four million
Jehovah’s Witnesses earthwide. It is an essential doctrine that has validated
their world view. It is the fundamental basis for the existence of the Watchtower
Society. It would be a very difficult thing for them to admit that over a
hundred years of “prophesying” have been in error.

Even within the governing body there has been much
discussion regarding the viability of the 1914 teaching. In Crisis of
Conscience
, Ray Franz reports how at one session, in 1975, three members
of the Governing Body wanted to move the “generation” ahead to 1957, the
time of the first Sputnik, but the majority wouldn’t agree. During a Governing
Body discussion of the reliability of time prophecies, Brother Knorr expressed
himself on the matter in these words:

“There are some things I know – I know
that Jehovah is God, that Christ Jesus is his Son, that he gave his life
as a ransom for us, that there is a resurrection. Other things I’m not so
certain about. 1914 – I don’t know. We have talked about 1914 for a long
time. We may be right and I hope we are.”

Lyman Swingle commented about continuing to emphasize 1914:

“All right, if that is what you want
to do. But at least you know that as far as 1914 is concerned, Jehovah’s
Witnesses got the whole thing – lock, stock and barrel – from the Second
Adventists.” Crisis of Conscience, pg 216, 217

Then, in 1977, Carl Olof Jonsson, a Witness for twenty
years and an Elder in Sweden, sent a massive amount of research he had done
on Biblically related chronology and chronological speculation. The information
only confirmed the research done seven years before by Ray Franz.

Jonsson’s research came about as a result of a Bible
study he was having with a man who had a background in history. He was challenged
to prove that 607 and not 587 was the correct date for the fall of Jerusalem.
Since none of the published “evidence” in any of the Society’s literature
was convincing to this man, Brother Jonsson undertook a personal research
program into archaeology and history to prove the matter himself. What he
found eventually convinced him that the Society was in error in this matter.
Being an honest person and a “lover of truth,” he prepared all the information
he had unearthed in the form of a treatise and sent it to Brooklyn for the
Governing Body’s evaluation, in the belief that they would welcome such
information. They wrote him a letter telling him that they were very busy
but would get to it when they could; meanwhile he was not to talk about his
“chronology” for fear that it might “upset the brothers.” After a year and
no reply, he made further inquiry. He received a reply that contained objections
which were already answered by his original material. Sometime after that,
a delegation of brothers was sent to talk to him. He was basically asked,
“Do you agree with the Society’s chronology?” No discussion, no convincing
argument, just “do you agree or don’t you!” When he in all good conscience
could not agree without convincing evidence, he was summarily disfellowshipped.
He has since published his findings in the form of two very fine books:
Gentile Times Reconsidered, and The Sign – What Is
It
?

 

The information which follows is a summary of the arguments
in Gentile Times Reconsidered. Jonsson begins with a history of
Second Adventist eschatology. Numerous “scholars” from the 14th century on
have advanced various dating schemes using both the 1260 and 2520 days converted
to years to arrive at various dates, including many dates in the 1800’s and
1914, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1923 1926, and 1934. It traces the history of the
1914 chronology and shows how it became a central doctrine of Jehovah’s
Witnesses. (See chart, A-43)

The Watchtower Society goes to great lengths to try
to discredit the extant historical records of the Neo-Babylonian period.
They also discredit the canons of Ptolemy as well as Berossus. The December
15, 1977 Watchtower commented favorably on a recent book by Physicist
R. R. Newton(10) The Crime of Claudius
Ptolemy
, who charged that Ptolemy “fudged” some of his astronomical
observations. However, follow-up articles in Scientific American show that
while a few astronomers agree with Newton, the majority of scholars disagree.
Dr. Newton’s case against Ptolemy is based on a series of statistical
calculations which indicate a degree of improbability that Ptolemy could
have made the observations he claimed with the instruments he describes.
Most scholars, however, take issue with Newton’s methodology and his disregard
of the methods of early astronomy. But even if some of Ptolemy’s astronomical
observations were unreliable, Newton admits that “the latter part of his
king list has independent verification.”

Actually, Ptolemy’s canon agrees exactly agrees exactly with that of Berossus
who lived 400 years before him. In any case, the editors of the
Watchtower should take no comfort, since none of our current
understanding of Neo-Babylonian chronology depends on either Ptolemy or Berossus.

During the last hundred years modern archaeology has unearthed a wealth of
contemporary records, official governmental inscriptions, astronomical
observations, and business records. Ptolemy and Berossus have been shown
to be in complete agreement with all newly discovered information. Are the
Babylonian Official records trustworthy? Dr. A. K. Grayson, noted authority
on Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles, concludes:

Unlike the Assyrian scribes the Babylonians neither fail
to mention Babylonian defeats nor do they attempt to change them into
victories
. The chronicles contain a reasonably reliable and representative
record of important events in the period with which they are concerned.”

The historical dating information provided by Brother Jonsson is voluminous
and exhaustive, but it proves conclusively that the date of Jerusalem’s
destruction can be historically placed at 587 B.C.E. with an error factor
of less than a year. In all, 7 lines of evidence are presented, 4 of them
completely independent of each other.

The first group of three are listed together because it cannot be proved
that they are truly independent. They consist of the Neo-Babylonian chronicles
from which Ptolemy and Berossus got their information. From this information,
Nebuchadnezzar’s first year can be dated 604/03 which would make 587/86 his
eighteenth year, when he desolated Jerusalem. The royal inscription Nabon.
No.8 (Hillah stele) and the chronicle B.M. 21901 allow us to fix Nabonidus’
first year to 555/54. This information allows dating Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth
year as 587/86. The royal inscription Nabon. H1.B (the Adda-Gupi’ stele)
gives the length of the reigns of all the Neo-Babylonian kings up to the
ninth year of Nabonidus. It too agrees with 587/86 for the fall of Jerusalem.

Business and Administrative Documents: Literally thousands of these have
been found. The records of a banking house, “the Sons of Egibi,” span the
entire era of the Babylonian kings. There are many tablets from each year
of the period. Since most are dated with the year of the ruling king, the
lengths of all the kings of the period can be thus confirmed. These records
extend for nearly a hundred years until the first year of Darius Hystaspis
in 521 B.C.E.

Astronomical diaries: The astronomical diary VAT 4956 contains about thirty
completely verified observations from Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th regnal year.
The combination of these astronomical positions is not duplicated for thousands
of years. Only one year fits these observations; 568/67 B.C.E. Again
Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year would then be 587/86. The oldest preserved
diary, B.M.32312 also enables dating Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year at
587/86.

Synchronisms with Contemporary Egyptian Chronology: These are important since
Egyptian chronology has been established independently of other dating systems
of the period. There are at least four synchronisms that are of interest.
Three are in the Bible: 2 Kings 23:29, Jeremiah 46:2, and Jeremiah 44:30.
The fourth is a cuneiform text B.M.33041 which links Amasis with Nebuchadnezzar’s
37th year. All dates derived from Egyptian history are in perfect agreement
with the dates given by Babylonian history. To use the Watchtower’s dating
negates the synchronisms between the Bible and Egyptian and Babylonian history.

An interesting point here regarding the Watchtower’s chronology: In order
to have Jerusalem’s fall occur in 607, they are forced to insert 20 years
into Babylonian history. The Aid book attempts to make the history
between Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus seem hazy and incomplete to allow for
this “gap.” However as demonstrated by Carl Jonsson, the historical record
is actually complete. If there were an additional 20 years in the Neo-Babylonian
era, then where are all the missing business records for that period? And
why are the same 20 years missing from all of the other sources? From time
to time, new artifacts are unearthed from various Babylonian periods, but
the 20 missing years never turn up.

The above represents a abbreviated summary of the historical and archaeological
information presented in Gentile Times Reconsidered. For a complete
investigation of the matter, I would highly recommend a thorough consideration
of the book.

Jonsson continues with a discussion of the texts relating to the seventy
years. The prophecy regarding the seventy years are recorded in Jeremiah.
The first text to consider is Jeremiah 25:10-12:

“I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness,
the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light
of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and
these nations will
serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when
the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his
nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD,
“and will make it desolate forever.”

Not only Judah was included in this proclamation, but “these
nations
” would serve the King of Babylon. Jeremiah 25:15-26 goes
on to list them. All these nations came under Babylonian rule. It is important
here to note several things that this prophecy predicts: (1) Judah will become
a “devastated place” (Heb. “Chorbah)-NW, and (2): “these nations will
serve the king of Babylon for seventy
years
.” Servitude does not mean the same thing
as captivity, or desolation, although it can mean such as well. For Judah,
servitude meant vassalage. But as time went on and the Jews revolted time
and again, they experienced wave after wave of military devastations until
at last the land was a ruin without inhabitant.

But Israel did not have to go into captivity. Such a fate was predicted for
any nation that refused to serve Babylon. This was clearly
stated by Jeremiah at chapter 27:11-14:

“But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the
king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its
own land
to till it and to live there, declares
the LORD.” ‘” I gave the same message to Zedekiah king of Judah. I said,
“Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and
his people, and you will live.
Why will you and your people die
by the sword, famine and plague with which the LORD has threatened any nation
that will not serve the king of Babylon? Do not listen to the words of the
prophets who say to you, `You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they
are prophesying lies to you. — NIV

Jeremiah 27:17: “…Serve the king of Babylon and keep on
living. Why should this city become a devastated
place
?” — NW

It would be inconsistent with Jehovah’s principles to offer a hope that he
had no intention of fulfilling. (In fact, that is the argument the Society
uses to show that Adam and Eve actually had a choice of whether to be faithful
or to disobey.) It is clear that servitude was decreed; whether to live in
their own land or become captives in Babylon was their choice. The seventy
years are referred to again in Jeremiah 29:10:

“This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed
for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious
promise to bring you back to this place.” — NIV

 

Here the New World Translation is at odds with most modern
translations(11) in that the Hebrew preposition
“le,” which generally means “for, to, in regard to, with reference to,” is
translated “at.” The sense here is that the seventy years refer to a period
of Babylonian supremacy during which, not only Judah, but
all nations of the region became vassals and paid tribute
to Babylon. Some, like Judah and also Ashkelon, rebelled and suffered the
consequences of having their city destroyed and their citizens taken to Babylon
as captives. This captivity, however, did not last for seventy years as the
Watchtower insists. One would hope that the New World Translation committee
was not swayed to use “at” by their doctrinal conviction.

It is important to realize that the prophecy concerning
the seventy years is contained in Jeremiah. The next two
texts, Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:20,21 must be seen as brief references
to Jeremiah’s prophecy. Neither accounts give a thorough discussion of the
prophecy. So every attempt to find an application of the seventy year period
must proceed from the prophecy itself and not from brief
references to it.

Daniel 9:1,2: “It was the first year of Darius son of Artaxerxes,
a Mede by race who assumed the throne of Chaldaea. In the first year of his
reign, I, Daniel, was studying, counting over the number of years — as revealed
by Yahweh to the prophet Jeremiah — that were to pass before the desolation
of Jerusalem would come to an end, namely seventy years.” — Jerusalem
Bible

Daniel’s interest in Jeremiah’s prophecy was aroused by the fact that Babylonian
supremacy had ended. Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that the end of
the seventy years “for Babylon” meant that the devastations of Jerusalem
could come to an end.

 

2 Chronicles 36:20,21: “And those who had escaped the sword
he deported to Babylon, where they were enslaved by him and his descendants
until the rise of the kingdom of Persia — to fulfil Yahweh’s prophecy through
Jeremiah: Until the country has paid off its Sabbaths, it will lie fallow
for all the days of its desolation — until the seventy years are complete.”
— Jerusalem Bible

One might conclude from this text, (especially in NW) that Ezra states that
the land enjoyed a sabbath rest of seventy years. But nowhere does Jeremiah
speak of a sabbath rest. Therefore Ezra’s words “until the land paid off
its sabbaths; all the days of lying desolated it kept sabbath,” (NW) could
not be a fulfillment of “Jehovah’s word by the mouth of
Jeremiah
.” The two clauses about the sabbath rest, as has been observed
by most commentators, are a reference to Leviticus 26:34,35:

“Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time
that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the
land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate,
the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived
in it.” -NIV

Like Daniel, Ezra understood the desolation of Judah to be a fulfillment
of this curse predicted by the law of Moses. But since neither Moses nor
Jeremiah predicted a seventy year sabbath rest, we should not understand
Ezra to be making such a connection. Such an understanding would be in conflict
with Jeremiah’s words, since it clearly shows the seventy years to be a period
of servitude for many nations, which both Bible and secular history show
began many years before the desolation of Jerusalem.

There is no evidence to warrant applying the last two texts, Zechariah 1:7,12
and 7:1-5 to Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy years. Neither makes any
reference to Jeremiah, and the context shows that they must be applied to
a different time period. Zechariah 1:7,12 states:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month
of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the
prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo…. Then the angel of
the LORD said, “LORD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem
and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy
years?”

This text can be dated to February, 519 B.C., the second year of Darius.
If, in 519 B.C., Jerusalem had been suffering God’s anger for seventy years,
then it would have to have been in 589 B.C. that Jehovah’s anger was expressed
when the armies of Babylon laid siege to the temple, not 607 B.C., which
would be 90 years. (If this seventy year period had already ended in 537
as the Society contends, then there would have been no reason for the angel
to ask such a question.) This fact is also confirmed by Zechariah
7:1-5:

“In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD
came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.
The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their
men, to entreat the LORD by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty
and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have
done for so many years?” Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: “Ask
all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned
in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really
for me that you fasted?” — Zechariah 7:1-5 — NIV

This text is dated to November, 518/517 B.C.E. In 517 B.C. the Jews had for
seventy years been commemorating the burning of Jerusalem in the fifth month
and the assassination of governor Gedaliah in the seventh month. Counting
back seventy years brings us once again to 587 B.C. So once again, the internal
testimony of the Bible corroborates the historical date of 587 for the
destruction of Jerusalem.

When do the seventy years begin to apply? There is some difference of application
among various Bible scholars(12). However
if the seventy years are counted from the time when Babylonian king Nabopolassar
with the help of the Medes captured Harran, thus ending the Assyrian world
empire in the year 609 B.C.E., then the period of Babylonian supremacy is
exactly seventy years.

In 1981 the Society published what seems to be a refutation of the historical
arguments in Jonsson’s book. This was contained in the appendix of Let
Your Kingdom Come
. They object to several alternative suggestions, but
ignore the most convincing arguments, leaving the impression that convincing
evidence does not exist. On one hand they admitted that the historical evidence
seemed to support the 587 date, but then they say that “We prefer to follow
the Bible” rather than secular history.

However, the whole point of Jonsson’s book is to demonstrate conclusively
that there is no disagreement between the Bible and secular history regarding
the 587 date. The disagreement is between the Watchtower’s preferred chronology,
and that of history and the Bible. So to say “We prefer to accept the Bible”
over secular history really means “we prefer to accept our
interpretation
of the Bible over secular
history(13).

The next question to be answered concerns “the gentile times.” Jesus makes
at least two references to the book of Daniel. When he mentioned “the disgusting
thing…,” and “the great tribulation…,” he makes clear reference to the
book of Daniel, quoting it. But no such reference is made at Luke 21:24 where
Jesus first uses this term, “the appointed times of the nations” with reference
to the trampling of the city of Jerusalem. Thus there seems to be no connection
between that term and the “seven times” of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness in Daniel
chapter 4.

When considering Daniel chapter 4 and the dream of the tree, it is interesting
to note that the prophecy is not dated. We don’t know when it was given,
nor when Nebuchadnezzar’s madness began and ended. We can deduce from other
known facts that it must have been near the end of his 43 year reign,
consequently after the destruction of Jerusalem. This is in contrast with
other prophecies of Daniel in which the time was important and so was stated.
It seems mighty odd that the “second fulfillment” would begin before
its “first” fulfillment, in fact, even before the prophecy was given!

The dream that was given to Nebuchadnezzar and the interpretation
of it given by inspiration through Daniel, was fulfilled entirely upon
Nebuchadnezzar himself when he lost his sanity for a period of “seven
times(14),” after which he was restored to
his kingdom and forced to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of the “King
of the Heavens.”

Ron Frye, a former Circuit Overseer, in a lecture concerning the Watchtower’s
“gentile times” interpretation comments:

“To fashion a symbolic interpretation from the elements contained
in this account from Daniel chapter 4 is an example of extreme scriptural
exegesis which is fraught with enormous possibilities for error and
miscalculation. To take “seven times” which in Nebuchadnezzar’s case was
seven literal years, and convert them into a period of 2520 years requires
using the “year for a day principle” of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. The
Watchtower’s Aid to Bible Understanding under “The Appointed Times
of the Nations” on page 96 says:

“Seven times,” according to this count, would equal 2,520
days. That a specific number of days may be used in the Bible record to represent
prophetically an equivalent number of years can be seen by reading the accounts
at Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Only by applying the formula there expressed
of “a day for a year” to the “seven times” of this prophecy can the vision
of Daniel chapter four have significant fulfillment beyond the now extinct
Nebuchadnezzar’s day, as the evidence thus far presented gives reason to
expect. They therefore represent 2,520 years.”

However this is merely an assumption. There is no scriptural warrant for
making a general principle out of two specific references to a “year for
a day.” Certainly there is nothing in Daniel that would suggest that it should
be done. Even the interpretation that “seven times” equals seven years of
360 days is an assumption.

Ron Frye continues:

“Still another assumption that must be made to get a protracted
doctrine of time out of this is to assume that the “gentile times”
in Jesus words at Luke 21 begin by applying to Jerusalem, but in the
end apply to something that Jerusalem only symbolizes. Again in the
Aid book on pages 94 and 95 concerning that very thing, it
says:

“While the literal city of Jerusalem is obviously referred
to in Jesus’ description of the destruction that was to come and did come
upon that city in the year 70 C.E. when the Romans demolished Jerusalem,
yet the statement concerning “the appointed times of the nations” carries
the prophecy far beyond that point, as many commentators have noted.

“The article goes on to identify Jerusalem with God’s heavenly
kingdom, and thus they make a connection between earthly Jerusalem and the
heavenly kingdom that they say was enthroned in 1914. But again, this is
without scriptural warrant. Jesus in his discussion did not go back in time
to establish when Jerusalem first began to be trampled on. But the Society
does; they take the reader way back to 607 B.C. But Jesus in Luke 21 is merely
talking about what was to happen to Jerusalem in the near future and what
would follow that in the centuries that would follow the destruction, until
the times of the nations’ domination of the earth came to their end. There
is no need nor any warrant to convert Jerusalem into a symbolism to make
the prophecy coherent or relevant. It was nothing more than a statement of
fact, namely that Jerusalem was to be destroyed and not only that, but there
would be an ongoing domination by the nations as long as the nations existed.”

According to Russell’s original interpretation, the trampling of Jerusalem
was supposed to end in 1914 when the Jews were to be restored to Palestine.
Prior to 1914 that seemed a possibility. But the outworking of history proved
Russell’s speculation false and it eventually had to be abandoned by the
Watchtower Society. Since 1931 such prophecies have been applied to spiritual
Israel.

The Watchtower publications regularly refer to 1914 as the year when Jesus
became “enthroned” and his kingdom “established.” However there are several
Bible texts that show clearly that Jesus has been enthroned since his
resurrection in 33 C.E.

Revelation 3:21: “To the one that conquers, I will grant
to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down
with my Father on his throne.

Ephesians 1:20-23: “…he [Jehovah] raised him up from the
dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every
government and authority and power and lordship, not only in this system
of things, but also in that to come. He also subjected all things under his
feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation which is his
body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.”

Matthew 28:18: “All authority has been given
me in heaven and on the earth.”

Furthermore, Hebrews 10:12,13 shows that Psalm 110:1 began to be fulfilled
since Jesus resurrection. Consequently, from 33 C.E. and thereafter, Jesus
has been sitting on Jehovah’s throne, ruling as the legal heir of David.

However, if one accepts the Watchtower Society’s interpretation that “Jerusalem”
now represents Christ’s heavenly rulership since 1914, several serious problems
arise. For example, how can it be held that “Jerusalem,” understood as being
the Kingdom of God in heaven, was trodden down by the Gentiles
on earth right up to
1914?(15) Also, how can it be said that the
“kingdom of the world” became the kingdom of Christ in 1914, since no observable
change took place in this regard in 1914. The nations are just as much in
control of earth as they ever were.


Does the Outbreak of War in 1914 Prove the Accuracy
of the Gentile Times Chronology?

Most Witnesses I talk to believe that because World
War I broke out in 1914, the Society’s chronology is validated. They feel
that all questions about dates, prophetic applications can be swept aside;
the methodology is validated by the results. However, that is like telling
the math student that it doesn’t matter how many arithmetic errors he makes
in the process if he ends up with the “right” answer. What is at question
here is whether the methodology used to arrive at any of these dates is
Scripturally valid; if not, any “fulfillment” would have to be considered
as mere coincidence. It is appropriate to examine the Barbour-Russell method
in this respect. It was originally held in their book Three Worlds,
that the 2520 years began to count in 606 B.C., (rather than the Watchtower’s
currently accepted 607 B.C.) It is evident that Barbour based his entire
system on the chronology developed by Archbishop James Ussher in the 16th
century, which has been demonstrated to be inaccurate. However in computing
the end point of the 2520 years, Barbour made a mathematical error by including
a “0” year. Although Russell eventually became aware of this, it was not
until 1949 that “adjustments” were made in order to respond to their critics.
In that adjustment, it was also “discovered” that the 606 B.C. starting point
was also in error. But rather than change the ending date (which had already
been “validated” by the outbreak of World War I), they “corrected” the starting
date back to 607 B.C., thus salvaging their 1914 chronology and all the important
doctrinal positions that it implies.

What must be remembered here is that this chronology
made a prediction for the end of
“the gentile times.” This prediction is based upon the accuracy of
the beginning point
. If you find an error in the methodology, it
changes the predicted end-point date – not the starting point. Thus their
changing the beginning date to agree with the conclusion is analogous to
the student in a science class who, after his experiment is completed, finds
an error in his arithmetic. Since he already has what he thinks is the “correct”
answer, rather than change his answer, he goes back and “fudges” the data.
Any professor would give that student a “0”! In attempting to salvage their
“gentile times” chronology, the Watchtower Society has done something similar.
Karl Burganger, in a research work which traces the details of these maneuverings
over the years by the Society in an effort to preserve their 1914 termination
date, makes this observation:

 

“Hence, three errors canceled each
other out and the upshot was the same! In all of this some Jehovah’s Witnesses
saw another evidence of God’s finger having guided the Pastor, C.T. Russell,
in his calculations.” –The Watch Tower Society and Absolute
Chronology
(16), pg 10.

 

In other words one might say that not only is God unsure of history, but
neither can he add! In the final analysis, the propriety of trying to construct
Bible time prophecies(17) in order to predict
events in the future is open to serious question.

The current doctrine held by Jehovah’s Witnesses is that the outbreak of
World War I corroborated Russell’s predictions and that the “fulfillment”
of Jesus sign regarding wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilence confirms
their identification of the generation alive in 1914 as the one that will
see the end of the system. But is that view justified? Did Jesus indeed say
that ” wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilence” were the signs that would
mark his “presence in Kingdom Power” as Jehovah’s Witnesses hold? The fact
that the generation alive in 1914 has continued over twice as long as the
generation of Jesus’ day, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Romans, would seem to raise serious concern regarding the validity of that
viewpoint.


Did the “Last Days” Begin in 1914?

This concern was addressed in Carl Jonsson’s second
book, The Sign of the Last Days – When? The consequences of this
work are indeed far reaching with respect to the fundamental doctrines of
the Watchtower Society. It demonstrates that there is no way to apply a
chronological identification to any particular generation or period of time
in which Christ’s return can be expected. It brings us back to Jesus’ words,
“For you do not know when the appointed
time is.” It also negates the attempt to use time prophecies to establish
a particular organization as a “channel” or “authority” being used by God.
I am sure that such information will be unwelcome to a great many of Jehovah’s
Witnesses who prefer the comfort of an authoritarian organization to tell
them what to do and what to believe. To many, however, it frees them to continue
their search for truth. I am deeply indebted to Brother Jonsson for his extensive
research into this subject and much of what follows is a summary of his book.
I would hope that every Witness would read it thoroughly.

In my discussions years ago with the young man mentioned
previously concerning the question of the “signs of the last days,” we
concentrated on earthquakes since he felt that one could be more objective
on that subject, since it was less dependant on human factors than some of
the other subjects. However a problem does come up here. First of all, the
Bible uses the term “great earthquakes.” What constitutes a “great earthquake?”

One problem faced in determining this is the fact that
the seismograph was not invented until 1880 by John Milne, called “the father
of seismology.” But it was not until about 1960 that an earthwide system
of very sensitive seismographs was in place that had the capability of recording
virtually every earthquake earthwide. (These were funded and placed, in part
by the Defense Department, to monitor Soviet underground nuclear testing.)
Therefore accurate measurements of the intensity of earthquakes are just
not available for pre-twentieth century earthquakes. Also earthquake records
prior to eighteenth century are for the most part limited to China, Japan,
and Southern Europe.

Prior to 1984 the Watchtower Society preferred to define
“great earthquakes” in terms of fatalities, ignoring the intensity on the
Richter scale. However the October 22, 1984 Awake defines “great earthquakes”
as one which meets at least one of the following criteria:

Magnitude ………7.5 or more on the Richter scale

Deaths …………100 or more

Damage ………….$5 million or more in property damage

 

While quite a number of pre-1900 earthquakes have had
estimated Richter scale magnitudes assigned to them, the bulk of them have
not. Also early records seldom have fatality figures unless many hundreds
were killed. So it is easy to see that most pre-1900 earthquakes would be
excluded from any list for lack of data. This fact of course would make modern
earthquakes seem much more numerous than they really are. The Awake!
article of October 22, 1984 quoted above concluded:

“Since 1914 the yearly average of reported
earthquakes has soared. There are 11 times the number that there were, on
an average, annually during the 1,000 years before that date. And 20 times
the annual average for the 2,000 years preceding 1914.”

But the extreme lack of data for the distant past and
reporting differences between the 20th century and previous centuries does
not allow for a realistic statistical analysis of earthquakes over that range
of time. What the Society does is to lump all earthquakes from 1913 back
through 2,000 years into one statistical “pool”, thus obtaining an extremely
low overall average, even for the latest centuries when reporting actually
increased. By comparing this average with post-1914 statistics, it makes
it appear that a dramatic jump in earthquakes occurred in 1914. However a
comparison of earthquake statistics century by century shows that 1914 does
not stand out any more than any other date within the last 200-300 years.
The 1914 date as the “seismic turning point” is completely arbitrary.

In the Awake! of February 22, 1977, page 11,
in connection with a list of 43 earthquakes from 1915-1976, the following
statistics appeared:

“Interestingly, for a period of 1059
years (856-1914 C.E.), reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes, with
1,972,952 fatalities. But compare that with the accompanying partial list
citing 43 instances of earthquakes, in which 1,579,209 persons died during
just the 62 years from 1915 to 1976 C.E…. The dramatic upsurge in earthquake
activity since 1914 helps to prove that we are now living in the time of
Jesus’ presence.”

 

In the Watchtower of May 15, 1983, the following
article comment appeared on page 6:

 

“In the Italian journal Il Piccolo
of October 8, 1978, a writer Geo Malagoli presented the following views:
“Our generation lives in a dangerous period of high seismic activity, as
statistics show. In fact, during a period of 1059 years (from 856-1914) reliable
sources list only 24 major earthquakes, with 1,973,000 deaths. However, if
we compare this figure to the partially complete list of recent disasters,
we find that 1,600,000 persons have died in only 63 years, as a result of
43 earthquakes which occurred from 1915 to 1978. The dramatic increase goes
to further emphasize another accepted fact – our generation is an unfortunate
one in many ways.”

 

It is obvious that Mr. Malagoli is no seismologist.
But the odds that he is a reader of the Awake magazine are astronomical!
If you will compare the Il Piccolo article with the above Awake article,
you will find that the numbers have been rounded off, the intervening year
has been added to 62 to make 63, and some of the words have been changed.
But obviously the source of his article is the Awake magazine. This quotation
appeared in the following Watchtower publications: Watchtower June
15, 1979 page 11; “Happiness How to Find It,” page 148; Awake! October
8, 1980; “Let Your Kingdom Come,” 1981 page 113; Awake! April 8,1981
page 13; Watchtower April 15, 1981 page 9; You Can Live Forever
in Paradise on Earth
1981, page 151. In each case, no mention
is made of the fact that in effect the Watchtower Society is really quoting
itself.
It is made to appear that an independent source is confirming
the Society’s claim regarding earthquakes. In the special discussion of
earthquake activity in the Watchtower of May 15, 1983, Malagoli
was finally brought up again as the leading “outside” witness to the claimed
increase in earthquake activity since 1914. In September 1950 the
Scientific American magazine published a brief news item on earthquake
activity. The Society has quoted several sentences from this article to “prove”
their earthquake theory:

 

“Major quakes used to occur in clusters,
each period of activity being followed by a rest period… But the periods
of activity became progressively shorter and closer together. Since 1948
the pattern has entered a new phase with approximately one great quake a
year.”

 

This “quote” may be found in Awake!, March
8, 1956, December 22, 1960, October 8, 1965, the Watchtower 1961,
page 628, and Aid, page 478. Taken out of their context, these sentences
seem to say that there has been a substantial increase in the number
of major earthquakes
in our century, especially since 1948. An
examination of the entire news item, however, gives quite another impression.
Note the complete article, “Earthquake
Patterns”:

 

“Will seismologists someday be able
to predict earthquakes? Workers at the California Institute of Technology
seem to have taken a step in that direction. They have found evidence that
earthquakes throughout the world follow a rough pattern of recurrence and
are related to a world-wide stress system.

“Investigators at the Institute’s
Seismological Laboratory studied the 48 great earthquakes that have occurred
all over the world since 1904
, when reliable instrumental observations
began. The study was limited to the highly destructive shallow quakes,
which take place less than 45 miles below the earth’s surface.
All these
quakes fell into a pattern “as orderly and regular as the cutting edge of
a saw.

“Major quakes used to occur in clusters,
each period of activity being followed by a rest period. Thus there was violent
activity between 1904 and 1907 and then quiescence for 10 years, except for
two quakes in 1911 and 1912. Four more active periods, separated by quiet
intervals, occurred between 1917 and 1948. But the periods of activity became
progressively shorter and closer together. Since 1948 the pattern has entered
a new phase, with approximately one great quake a year. Instead of
accumulating over a period of years, strain in the earth’s crust now seems
to find release as fast as it is generated
.

“The nature of the “global force” that
controls this orderly pattern is unknown. One speculation is that periodic
increases in the earth’s rate of spin due to slight changes in the tidal
forces of the sun and moon may enlarge the earth, opening its seams sufficiently
to release the accumulated tensions.”

 

This study was concerned with only one type of quake
– shallow destructive quakes. It does not say that the number or intensity
has increased; only that while they used to occur in clusters, they now occur
yearly, the average being the same. The Scientific American news item itself
shows that no increase in either the total number or size of earthquakes
had occurred
. Only by quoting two or three sentences out of context
was it possible to create the opposite impression. Is this honest scholarship?

They do the same with a quotation from seismologist
John Milne, in which they try to discredit the earthquake catalogs:

“Nor do all historical records about
`great’ earthquakes of the past inspire confidence in their reliability.
That was the view of noted cataloger John Milne. `In these catalogues,’ we
read in the 1939 edition of his book Earthquakes and Other Earth
Movements
, `there are uncertainties in the dates, or even the years,
for many of the ancient earthquakes. There are numerous inaccurate or obscure
references in the original writings.’ — Awake! of May 8, 1974 (page
18)

 

The entire context of Milne’s “quotation” gives a different picture:

 

“The information available for examination
of the distribution of earthquakes in different parts of the world throughout
historic times has been collected in many catalogs. The older
catalogues
, which were prepared from reports found in the histories
of various countries, are necessarily incomplete, and do not give a fair
representation
of the distribution of seismic phenomena over the entire
globe
. In these catalogues there uncertainties in the dates, or even
the years, for many of the ancient earthquakes. There are numerous inaccurate
or obscure references in the older writings, and the dates are frequently
given according to some little known system of reckoning. The entries for
these ancient shocks refer, for the most part to widespread
disasters.”

 

Thus with the quotation shown in its proper context,
Milnes’ estimation of the catalogs gives the opposite impression; that since
the older catalogs are incomplete, the real number of ancient earthquakes
was actually larger. Once again we have manipulation of information to achieve
a desired result.

But what does the historical record show? Seismologists
have spent much time in trying to catalog and evaluate the record of earthquakes
of the distant past in order to study the phenomena. Literally hundreds of
thousands of earthquakes have been cataloged. While it is true that the older
catalogs are incomplete, yet it does allow for an educated evaluation as
to seismic activity of the past. The Awake! magazine of February
22, 1977 printed a “partial” list of 43 major earthquakes from 1915-1983.
This chart was compared with the above quotation about the 24 major earthquakes
previous to 1914 creating the impression of a dramatic increase in earthquakes
since 1914. I have included that chart with a comparison chart of earthquakes
of a comparable portion of the 18th century, 1715-1783. Note that the total
and annual average is actually greater. So once again, the Watchtower is
unable to substantiate its claims.

Carl Jonsson corresponded with a number of leading
seismologists at a number of universities to get their opinions as to whether
or not seismic activity has actually increased since 1914, and whether earthquake
statistics had been used in a responsible way by the writers of the
Watchtower. Since their comments are very interesting I have included
their letters of reply with the supplemental information. One thing can be
said: seismologists generally agree that earthquake activity has been fairly
constant for many thousands of years. Seismologist Wilbur Rinehart of the
N.O.A. National Geophysical Data Center concluded his letter with the following
(See A-51 through A-54):

 

“I know of no competent seismologists
or statisticians who would use the numbers quoted in the way the Watchtower
Society used them. I would agree with both Professors Bath and Richter in
their assessment that there has been no significant increase
in the numbers of earthquakes during this or any other century. And I would
conclude with Mark Twain’s famous quote: `The are three kinds of lies – lies,
damned lies, and statistics.'” (A-46 through A-50)

 

Making an authority appear to support to your position
when in actuality he has the opposite opinion is not honest scholarship.
The fact of the matter is that professional seismologists believe that seismic
activity has been largely constant throughout all known history. Author Carl
Jonsson’s conclusion regarding the data presented by the Society in support
of their contention on earthquakes:

 

“Consequently, there is no evidence
whatsoever in support of the claim made by various religious sources, including
the Worldwide Church of God, a Seventh Day Adventist author, and notably
by the Watch Tower Society, that earthquake activity is markedly different
in our century compared with earlier centuries. All information available
points to the contrary. The shifting, twisting, uncoordinated claims of the
Watch Tower Society and their juggling of facts and figures in an effort
to prove that an increase has occurred have been revealed above as fraudulent
— hopefully not deliberately so, but as a result of remarkably poor research,
superficial analysis and wishful thinking.” — Sign of Last Days –
When?
pg 87.

 

These are but a few of the inconsistencies in the Society’s
evidence for increased earthquakes since 1914. Similar information is presented
with regard to the Society’s statistics on wars, famine, and pestilence.
One quickly comes to the conclusion that the twentieth century is truly a
benign time to be living. For a quick look at the evidence, one only has
to consider the fourteenth century, where the black death killed a third
of the population of Europe and probably the whole world. This was followed
by famine. Whole towns were wiped out, and regions decimated. Much of the
century was plagued by war. If one really believes that the twentieth century
is being visited by far worse calamity than previous eras, I would suggest
he study history, then ask himself in which century would he rather
live!

I have mentioned the matter of earthquakes because
it illustrates the methods used to try to prove that our generation is unique
with respect to wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes. The same type
of situation can be shown with respect to the other calamities. The April
15, 1984 Watchtower admits that these things are not unique to our
generation. Then it goes on to describe what it refers to as a “composite
sign.” How could these things be used to identify the time of the end as
beginning in 1914? The article went on to say that they would have to differ
from like conditions in previous generations in the following ways:

“First, every feature of the sign would have to be observed by one generation…

“Second, the effects of the sign would have to be felt worldwide…

“Third, the combined conditions or symptoms would have to grow progressively worse during this period.

“Fourth, the occurrence of all these
things would be accompanied by a change in people’s attitudes and
actions
. Jesus warned: `the love of the greater number will cool
off.'” –Watchtower 4/15/84 pg 5

But even if we accept these standards, can we truly
say that this generation meets the test? Earthquakes cannot be shown to be
increasing over previous centuries. In fact only by questionable manipulation
of the statistics can any argument be made at all.

What about wars? The Watchtower Society has stated
many times that World War I was “seven times greater than all the 901 major
wars of the previous 2,400 years.” (See Watchtower, 10/15/75, pg
633). It is true that with the industrial revolution, the invention of gunpowder,
and the rapid development of technology, man’s capability to kill one another
has dramatically increased. But in actuality, the number of persons killed
in wars since the end of World War II is considerably less than those killed
during the period of 1914-1945. In the book Let Your Kingdom Come,
1981, page 115, historian Barbara Tuchman is quoted as saying:

“The First World War was one of the great convulsions of history.”

 

On examining her statement, however, the Society chose
not to include an important part of her statement. Her full statement
was:

Like the French Revolution,
the First World War was one of the great convulsions of
history.”

In fact, many historians consider the French Revolution
to be a more significant “turning point” in history than either World War
I or II. Nor can WWI be considered the first “world war”. Historians point
out that both the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713) and the Seven
Years’ War (1756-1763) were the first “world wars” since they involved all
four continents of the world and greatly shaped the course of human history,
while World War I was largely limited to Europe.

World War I is estimated to have killed 10-12
million
people. If it was “seven times greater” than all the previous
major wars in 2,400 years of history combined, then that would mean only
about 1.5 million had died in those wars. To realize the absurdity of such
a claim one has only to examine several wars from the centuries that immediately
preceded 1914:

The Thirty Years
War
(1618-1648), an international conflict with about 10
nations involved, estimated to have killed 2-3 million soldiers. Civilian
fatalities were much higher. Most experts believe that 30-40% of the total
German population, or 7-8 million civilians died due to the war. Historian
R. R. Palmer observes that “even the Second World War, in sheer depopulation,
was not as devastating for Germany as was the Thirty Years War. It is quite
possible for human beings to die like flies without benefit of scientific
destruction. The horrors of modern war are not wholly different from horrors
that men and women have experienced in the past.”

The Manchu-Chinese
War
. In 1644 China was invaded by the Manchus from Manchuria
in a lengthy war that is estimated to have claimed 25 million
lives, about twice as many as were killed militarily in
World War I.

The Napoleonic
Wars
(1792-1815) involved the same number of nations as
World War I. France lost 2 million. The total death figure for the period
1792-1815 is set at 5-6 million.

The Taiping
Rebellion
(1850-1864), “perhaps the most destructive war
of the entire 19th century,” (Dupuy & Dupuy, page 864). This was a civil
war in China that usually is stated to have claimed 20-30
million
lives. The Awake in March 22, 1982 apparently overlooked
its previous claim about World War I being seven times worse than previous
wars. In an article highlighting the involvement of religion in war, stated
that the number of victims in the Taiping Rebellion was “possibly as many
as 40 million.”

Genghis Kahn’s
conquests in the 13th century probably surpassed World War I also. His conquest
of Northern China in 1211-1218, for instance, is said to have cost 18 million
Chinese lives.

These are just a few examples from Sign of the
Last Days – When?
that show that the Society’s claims about World War
I cannot be substantiated. The same case could as easily be made for famine
and pestilence. The history of mankind is largely a history of crises and
catastrophes. Although the Watchtower Society admits this, it tries to belittle
the calamities of the past, claiming that our century has seen them on a
much larger scale. For example:

“Certainly it is true that previous
generations have experienced calamity. The 14th century was the time of the
Black Plague when people across Europe lived in dread of pestilence, famines
and wars. But just compare the scale of things in our century.”
Watchtower, July 15, 1983 page 7.

According to this, the Watchtower Society feels that
the 14th century was not nearly as bad as the present! Is that really true?
Given a choice, would we prefer conditions then – as regards wars, famines,
pestilences, and earthquakes – as preferable to those in this century? Historian
Barbara Tuchman likened the 14th century to a “distant mirror” of our own.
A closer look at that century’s experience will help us to assess the accuracy
of the Watchtower’s claim.

War was a constant feature of the 14th century. In
Asia and Eastern Europe, the Mongols were conquering nation after nation
in bloody warfare. In Western Europe the “Hundred Years War” was raging –
for 116 years. Then about 1370, Tamerlane, the “Fuhrer” of the 14th century,
appeared on the scene and conquered almost all of Asia. Whole cities were
slaughtered by his ruthless hordes.

Even earthquakes were significant during the 14th century.
In the mountains of Ki-Ming-Chan an earthquake formed a huge lake. In Tche
the dead were believed to number more than five million. “In 1348 came an
earthquake of such frightful violence that many men deemed the end of the
world to be presaged. Its devastations were widely spread. Cyprus, Greece,
and Italy were terribly visited, and [the seismic tremor] extended through
the Alpine valleys.” –Historical tales: Romance of Reality
Morris

Famine was also present. The 14th century opened with
a change in climate, causing cold weather – and crop failures – for a number
of years. Famine was widespread, with poor people eating anything they could
get their hands on, including their own children. Men died of starvation
while digging up graveyards for food. Condemned criminals were snatched from
the gallows for food. The area of famine stretched from the “Pyrenees to
the plains of Russia and from Scotland to Italy.

In 1331 the “Black Death” appeared in the province
of Hopei, China, where it killed 9 out of every 10 persons. In 1353 it raged
in eight scattered areas of China where it killed two thirds of the population.
By 1347 it had spread all across Asia and into Europe. In some areas, whole
regions were depopulated. Before it was over, from one quarter to one half
of the population of Europe had died. During the rest of the century and
for several centuries afterward, plague revisited Europe every 6-10 years
with similar results. Although plague had largely disappeared from Europe
by 1720, it continued to rage in other parts of the world. Climatologist
H. H. Lamb says that the Chinese famine caused by the extraordinarily great
rains and river floods in 1332 is “alleged to have cost 7 million lives.”
Climate, Present, Past and Future, p456.

With regard to pestilence the Watchtower Society makes
the claim that the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919 was “The Deadliest
Killer of All Time”, the title of an article in the March 8, 1971
Awake!. It made the statement:

“Had the epidemic continued its
mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization would easily have disappeared
from the earth within a matter of a few more weeks.”

One has but to consider the numbers to realize how
totally absurd this claim is. It is generally estimated that about 525 million
– over a quarter of mankind – fell ill with the influenza. Of these 15-25
million died and about 500 million recovered. The average mortality was about
4%. That means that if 100 persons came down with the disease, 96 would recover.
If every single person in the world had caught the disease, 96% would have
recovered. Civilization was in no danger of disappearing.

When one considers the mortality rates of the pestilences
of the past, the reality is sobering. Typhoid fever and dysentery, both of
which used to be constant followers of wars of the past, sometimes killed
as many as 20 to 50% of those infected, respectively. Yellow fever had a
mortality rate of 60% or more. Cholera killed from 50-80%. Mortality due
to the bubonic plague varied between 30-90%, while pneumonic plague, the
other type of infection during the Black Death of the 14th century, had a
mortality rate of 100% with no known survivors.

Summing up the tragedies of the 14th century, historian
Barbara Tuchman in her book A Distant Mirror describes the period
as:

“a violent, tormented, bewildered,
suffering and disintegrating age, as time, as many thought, of Satan triumphant,”
and adds: If our last decade or two of collapsing assumptions has been a
period of unusual discomfort, it is reassuring to know that the human
species has lived through worse before
.”

It is hard to imagine that anyone in the 20th century
would prefer go back and live in the 14th century (were that possible) so
as to live in less “critical times” – unless he were totally unacquainted
with the facts of history and accepted at face value the claims and “proofs”
of the Watchtower Society.

In comparing the past with the present, one other factor
needs to be considered: population. “End-times” proclaimers, (of which,
incidentally, the Watchtower Society is not the only one), often rely on
the “Population Bomb” concept to explain why we have seen a tremendous upsurge
in population growth. For example, the Awake! commented:

“The root of the problem lies in the
way the population expands. It does not increase by simple consecutive addition
(1,2,3,4,5,etc.) but by exponential growth or multiplication
(1,2,4,8,16,32,etc.).” Awake! August 8, 1983 page 5

But does this explain population growth from the distant
past to the present? Much is made of the fact that population is currently
doubling every 35 years. This corresponds to an annual rate of 2%, which,
if it had been constant throughout past millenniums, would have resulted
in a population of many, many more billions more than it is today. Professor
Alfred Sauvy, Europe’s great demographer explains:

“If for example the population of China,
the size of which is estimated to have been 70,000,000 at the time of Christ,
since then had increased by 1% per year, it would today have reached, not
the recently estimated 680,000,000 [over one billion in 1984], but 21
million billions
! Spread out all over the globe this population
would give about 120 Chinese per square meter.”

 

Exponential growth cannot be the correct explanation
of the pattern of shrinking intervals of doubling of earths population. As
the graphs on page A-53 clearly show, there has been a dramatic acceleration
of population growth beginning approximately around the 17th century. Stated
another way, something must have been preventing exponential
growth, something that has been gradually removed over the
past several hundred years. What factors limited population
growth in the past? The answer is completely devastating to the theory of
the “composite sign” since 1914 and to any claims that our century is
experiencing worse calamity than those of the past.

The reason for the very slow population increase in
past ages is precisely because mankind then suffered much
more than today from wars, famines and pestilences
. These factors
caused such high mortality that population growth was effectively checked.
In fact the very same factors that have controlled the population increase
of the world’s animals were at work among men until comparatively recent
times.

The industrial revolution, the rapid advances of scientific
knowledge both in the field of medicine as well as agriculture, and the
development of effective transportation systems have eliminated or reduced
to a large degree the scourges of the past. Please note the chart included
in the supplemental material, which depicts the population fluctuations of
Egypt from 664 B.C. to the present. Note the dramatic effect of pestilence
and war on population.

To make their figures appear more convincing, the
Watchtower Society seldom takes population into account when comparing disasters
of the past with those of the present. This gives a very misleading picture.
To illustrate, suppose that you live in a village of 100 persons and a plague
or an army comes along and the result is that 50 people die. That is half
of your village. This represents a terrible catastrophe to the village from
which it may never recover. On the other hand, suppose you lived in a town
of 10,000 and 500 people died. Although 500 is 10 times as many as 50, yet
the total impact on your town is much less. While the tragedy is personal
for a significant number of people, yet the viability of the town is not
threatened. So to say that the “500” is 10 times worse than the “50”
is simply not being realistic or honest. Yet that is essentially what the
Watchtower Society often does in their statistical comparisons with the past.

The conclusion that I have to come to is that the events
since 1914 are in no way remarkable when compared to the last two thousand
years of human history. In Matthew 24:1-6 that seems to be what Jesus is
saying; that human history would be characterized by such
events, but that those events would not signal anything about the imminence
of his arrival. In fact he warns that some people might make such a connection,
but that his followers should not be misled by such “proclamations.” In fact
that is the way Pastor Russell understood Matthew 24:1-6 in Studies in
the Scriptures
, Vol. 4, 1916 edition:

“Thus briefly did our Lord summarize
secular history and teach the disciples not to expect very soon his second
coming and glorious kingdom. And how aptly: surely the world’s history is
just this, an account of wars, intrigues, famines and pestilences – little
else.”

Russell was not looking for a time of trouble to begin
in 1914 that would “prove” Jesus invisible presence. He already believed
that Jesus had been present since 1874
. Even in 1916 he was still looking
for Christ’s kingdom to take over complete control of earth and bring an
end to all human rule. It was not until some years after his death that the
Society reinterpreted its previous understanding regarding 1874 and Christ’s
invisible presence and applied it instead to 1914. The interpretation of
scripture that made this seem plausible has to do with the understanding
of the Greek word parousia. It was after Jesus’ statement regarding
the destruction of the temple that the disciples asked “When will these things
be and what will be the sign of your presence [parousia] and of
the conclusion of the system of things?” The Society understands
parousia to refer to Jesus’ “invisible” presence which precedes
his “revelation” in which he manifests himself to the world in general and
brings about its destruction.

This understanding is not original with Russell or
the Watchtower Society. It actually was first suggested by the London banker
Henry Drummond. The history of this interpretation is interesting and is
covered quite well in Sign of the Last Days – When?. Note the history
contained in Appendix B:

“This idea did not originate with the
Watch Tower Society. It can be traced back to the 1820’s, when it was first
suggested by the well-known London banker and Bible expositor Henry Drummond,
who was later to become one of the founders of Edward Irving’s Catholic Apostolic
Church. The “invisible presence” or “two-stage coming” theory, better known
today as the “secret rapture” theory, was quickly picked up by other expositors
of the prophecies. It was adopted not only by the Irvingites but also by
the followers of John Nelson Darby, the Plymouth Brethren, through whom it
was widely spread in England, the U.S.A. and other countries. It became very
popular especially among the millenarians, Christians who believe in a literal,
future millennium on earth.

“For many of the defenders of the
“two-stage coming” idea the Greek word parousia became a crucial
point in the discussion. It was commonly held that this word referred to
the first stage of Christ’s coming, his invisible presence “in the air.”
The Greek words epiphania, “appearing,” and apokalypsis,
“revelation,” on the other hand were usually said to apply to the second
stage of the coming, Christ’s intervention in world events at the battle
of Armageddon. Changing the translation of parousia from “coming”
to “presence” radically alters the sense, not only of the question of the
disciples, but also of Jesus’ answer. This is illustrated by the arguments
put forth in 1866 by Reverend Robert Govett, the most prominent British champion
of the secret rapture idea in the last century:

“If we say, `What is the sign of Thy
coming?’ then,… we are enquiring for a sign of the Savior’s future movement
from the highest heaven. If we say, `What is the sign of thy presence?’ we
are inquiring for a proof of Jesus’ existence in secret in the air, after
his motion towards earth is for a while arrested. The disciples inquire,
`What shall be the sign of thy Presence?’ This, then, assures us that they
imagined that Jesus would be present in secret. We need no sign of that which
is openly exhibited.”

“These arguments made in 1866 were
picked up by many other expositors, among them Charles Taze Russell. In 1876,
under the influence of the Adventist Nelson H. Barbour and his associates,
Russell had adopted “presence” as the only acceptable meaning of
parousia to explain how Christ could have come in 1874 (as had been
predicted by Barbour) without being noticed by anyone. The adoption of this
view, then, was due to a failed prediction and it was used as a means of
explaining away their 1874 failure. This explanation was retained by Russell’s
followers on up into the early 1930’s, when it was suddenly “discovered”
that Christ’s “invisible presence” had begun in 1914 instead of
1874!”

 

The Watchtower Society’s New World translation
translates the word parousia as “presence”, along with a small minority
of other Bible Translators. Some such as Dr. Robert Young did so out of his
attempt to present the strictly literal meanings of the Greek words. Benjamin
Wilson’s Diaglott also uses “presence.” Rotherham in his third edition of
his Emphasized New Testament changed from “arrival” to “presence” because,
as he explains, he at least partially had come to accept the “two-stage”
coming idea. Five or six other little-known translators also use “presence.”

The treatment of the word by very early translators
of the Scriptures into Latin is interesting. In almost every case, they prefer
to translate parousia “adventus,” literally “a coming to.” This
is significant, because their translations were made while koine Greek was
still a living language.

During the last century, modern archaeology has discovered
a great many documents and inscriptions written in the koine Greek, the language
of the Greek Scriptures. As a result, since the early 1900’s we have a much
clearer understanding of the language itself. One of the words whose meaning
was illuminated by the new texts, was the word parousia. Professor
Deissmann summarized these new insights in his now classic work Light
from the East
:

“Yet another of the central ideas of
the oldest Christian worship receives light from the new texts, viz.
[parousia], “advent, coming,” a word expressive of the most ardent
hopes of a St. Paul. We now may say that the best interpretation of the Primitive
Christian hope of the Parousia is the old Advent text, `Behold thy
King cometh unto thee.’ From the Ptolemaic period down to the 2nd
cent. A.D. we are able to trace the word in the east as a technical expression
for the arrival or the visit of the king or the emperor
.”

 

The Watchtower Society claims scholarly support for
their use of parousia in the New World translation. The discussion
in the 1984 edition appendix cites three translations which use
parousia besides their own. However all of the three were translated
before the discovery of Deissmann and his colleagues. Then they quote from
The Parousia by Dr. Israel Warren who argues “presence” as the only
correct translation of parousia. However, Dr. Warren’s work dates
from 1879, and is thus seriously out of date.

The article also refers to Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon
and Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary (TDNT), both of which
give “presence” as the meaning of parousia. However, one wonders
why they do not mention that both Lexicons go on to a detailed discussion
of parousia in its technical sense with particular reference to
the parousia of Jesus Christ. The TDNT in particular spends 14 pages
in that discussion. The only reference that clearly supports the Watchtower
position is Vine’s Expository Dictionary. However since Vine was
a strong advocate of the “secret rapture” theory, it is not surprising that
he defines parousia in a way that supports his own beliefs. However,
this brings him into conflict with modern scholarship.

The Watchtower leans heavily on the claim that the
context supports their use of “presence.” However, they admit in the
Watchtower of January 15, 1974, on page 50: “When they asked Jesus,
`What will be the sign of your presence?’ they did not know that his future
presence would be invisible.” However, this refutes their argument since
if they did not know his presence would be invisible, how could they have
asked for such a sign for such a presence? Evidently they asked for a sign
that would show that his presence was imminent, not of something
that had already occurred.

This view is corroborated by the version in Mark’s
account wherein the question for a “sign” refers to the destruction
of the temple
only. Obviously in this case they wanted some indication
in advance of that event. The way Jesus answered their question
confirms this. After describing the “sign” that would accompany his future
coming “on the clouds” he goes on to give the illustration of the fig tree.
The phrases “summer is near” and “he is near at
the doors
” indicates that the sign would show he was near, not here,
already invisibly present.

This is emphasized further in Matthew’s comparison
of Jesus coming with the Flood of Noah’s day which took them suddenly unawares.
Luke adds the example of Sodom in the days of Lot and says “after the same
manner shall it be in the day the Son of man is revealed.” In Matthew’s account
the word parousia is used. In Luke’s parallel account he refers
to the day in which the “Son of man is revealed.” So the
two terms refer to the same event, the sudden unexpected arrival of Christ
Jesus. In fact, in Luke’s account the question is asked, “What shall
be the sign of your coming”
[eleuseos], which is the common
word for “coming.” The evidence seems clear that the use of parousia
cannot refer to the invisible “presence” of a “two-stage” coming, but does
refer to Christ’s future arrival and appearing for judgement as King.

In trying to understand the 24th and 25th chapters
of Matthew and the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke, many questions arise.
And while some interpretations may answer some questions, they raise many
others. This is certainly true of the Watchtower Society’s understanding.
For example, on the basis of their understanding that Christ’s
parousia began in 1914, the Society holds that Christ came to his
“temple” invisibly in 1918 and that his inspection of the professing Christians
at that time found only the anointed members of the Bible Students (Russell’s
group) to be “faithful and discreet” in doing the will of the master. Thus
they hold that in 1919 he appointed them over “all his belongings.” It is
on this basis that the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society holds spiritual
authority over all of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This interpretation causes a problem
when you consider the chronological order of events in the Gospel accounts.
Although they hold that the “coming on the clouds” of Matthew 24:30 is a
future event, yet they say that the gathering of his “chosen ones” of verse
31 has been going on since 1919 by the preaching activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However this reversal of events is shown to be impossible by the parallel
account in Mark 13:26,27 where it says:

 

“And then they will
see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And
then he will send forth the angels and will gather his chosen
ones together from the four winds, from the earth’s extremity to heaven’s
extremity.” — Mark 13:26,27 NW

 

This order of events also shows that the Society’s
teaching that its preaching work is the “harvest” mentioned in the parable
of the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13 as well as the separating of the fish
in the parable of the dragnet cannot be correct. Both of these separations
are shown to be done by angels and are associated with the judgment that
will take place at his future “coming on the clouds” accompanied by his angels.
In the parable of the dragnet, the preaching performed by Christ’s nominal
followers is represented by the net lying in the sea collecting “all sorts”
of fish. The point is that the separation of the good from the bad
cannot take place while the net is still in the sea gathering
fish. This is also true in the case of the wheat and the weeds; they cannot
be separated while they are still growing in the field, but only after they
are harvested. Furthermore, the parable presents this separation as being
done “by the angels,” not by humans. Logically the ones being separated could
not be doing the separating. The Society tries to get around this problem
by saying that “angels are directing” their preaching work. But in any case,
the order of events in Mark proves this false.

It seems to be an inescapable conclusion that the “sign”
that Jesus gave was not earthquakes, wars, famines, and pestilence — events
that have characterized every century from Jesus day to the present — but
rather the event referred to in Matthew 24:29, 30 and Luke 21:25-27:

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On
the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing
of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on
the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will
see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” — Luke
21:25-27 NIV

It is not necessary to assume a strictly literal
interpretation of the heavenly phenomena if one considers that these words
display a poetic quality that is common in prophetic pronouncements. For
example consider the pronouncement regarding the destruction of the city
of Babylon recorded in Isaiah 13:10:

“…the stars of heaven and their
constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.” Isaiah 13:10 NIV

 

The destruction of Idumea and Egypt was foretold in
similar language. So while one should be cautious about making dogmatic
statements as to just what this sign might entail, yet of several things
one can be sure. Whatever form this sign might take, it will be readily apparent
to all humanity wherever they might be on earth, that God,
by means of his son Jesus Christ has intervened in the affairs mankind.
They would not need someone to knock on their door and tell them that the
sign was now visible; it would be obvious to everyone, even as the flash
of lightning is instantly visible everywhere in the vicinity of a gathering
storm. Also obvious from these accounts is the fact that when this sign in
is evidence, events will rapidly progress to their conclusion. From the parables
in Matthew chapter 25 we further learn that once that event occurs, mankind
will shortly face judgment at the hands of Christ Jesus; if one is not prepared
it will be too late. Hence the anguish of nations alienated from God.

At this point a word needs to be said about the Society’s
interpretation of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46).
They see themselves as participating in the separating work – even as they
do in the parables of the dragnet and the wheat and the tares. They argue
that the judgment is rendered on the basis of individual’s
knowingly supporting their message and becoming part of
their organization, or knowingly ignoring it. Note these
comments in the book Our Incoming World Government – God’s
Kingdom
:

“They knowingly give aid for the
furtherance of the Kingdom proclamation, because they pray for that world
government and are in favor of it. That is why their aid to his spiritual
“brothers” counts with the King Jesus Christ.” -page 165

“If we say that the symbolic `goats’
were `cursed’ and condemned to destruction with the Devil and his angels
merely for ignorantly neglecting Christ’s `brothers,’
then, logically, we must argue that the symbolic `sheep’ were blessed and
rewarded with a place in the Kingdom realm merely for
ignorantly doing good to Christ’s brothers. What
real merit would there be, then, in the `good’ that the `sheep’ did to Christ’s
`brothers?’ Or what demerit in the neglect that the `goats’ did not realize
that they were committing? Where, then, is the justice in rewarding the one
ignorant class and punishing the other ignorant class? Justice is apparently
nowhere in such treatment
.” -pg 168

Yet the parable is clear that both classes did
act ignorantly
in their treatment of Christ’s brothers. Can you
imagine a Witness saying to Jesus “I had no idea I was helping your brothers?”
Every Witness “knows” that he will be judged on the basis of whether or not
he accepts the spiritual authority of the Watchtower Society, “Christ’s brothers”
in the Society’s view of matters. It is because of the way that they “write
themselves into the script” that the Society finds it necessary to contradict
the clear statement of Jesus. Thus they resort to the argument that no justice
is demonstrated if judgment is rendered in the way that the parable describes,
in order to justify re-writing the script in a way that suits them.

This seems highly presumptuous to me, and it suggests
that their scenario of the “last days” and of “Christ’s return” is in error.
There certainly is justice in judging people in the way the parable describes,
namely, that we are judged on the basis of what kind of persons we are in
terms of Christian qualities, generosity and compassion. ln this way Christ
chooses those who truly love righteousness and are compassionate because
of their Christ-like personality rather than those who merely put on a “show”
when someone is watching. That is something to think about when we are confronted
with people who are truly in need. In fact, that is what the parable of the
Good Samaritan is all about.

With respect to the generation of 1914, however, the
Society seems to be running out of time. For the past hundred years they
have been arguing that there are only a few more years left. Just prior to
1975, they were emphasizing that most of those who could remember the events
of 1914 were gone – that the generation of 1914 had nearly passed away. This
was in keeping with their view that the end would come by 1975. With the
failure of the expectations of 1975 to materialize, however, now they find
themselves forced to take a different tack – namely that there are many people
who were alive in 1914 who could live on for quite a number of years. For
example in the book Your Kingdom Come, published in 1981 on page
40 it says:

“In Jesus’ day, some of the disciples
who heard his words and others of his contemporaries survived to live through
the final tribulation on the Jewish system of things. They were the generation
of Jesus’ time. At this writing in the United States alone there are more
than ten million persons still living who are old enough to observe
a beginning of pangs of distress in 1914-1918. Some of these might still
survive quite a number of years.”

 

At this point one might ask how old a person must be
to be considered as having been able to observe and understand the significance
of historic events. An article in the U.S. News & World Report
of January 14, 1980 considered this matter of how many people alive today
were able to remember the events of 1914. It concluded that those ten years
or older would have been able to do so and that only 6% of all living Americans
would be in that group.

Former elder Ron Frye in a lecture dealing with “the
last days” made reference to that article and commented:

 

“Of course this is a very unscientific
assumption to make, but the Society has seizes upon things like this to build
up their sagging argument. First they argue that there is a parallel between
the generation of Jesus’ day and our present “generation of 1914.” But is
there? Or is that just an assumption too? Be that as it may, the generation
to which Jesus addressed himself was called a “wicked and adulterous generation,”
a “faithless and twisted generation.” Clearly these epithets do not seem
to describe little children 10 years of age. Furthermore, if there is a parallel,
then the end of the present world should have happened over thirty years
ago, since it was only 37 years after Jesus uttered his warning that Jerusalem
was destroyed in 70 A.D. So where is the parallel in time, if there is a
parallel?

“Consider another question: because
someone is old enough to observe something, say a ten year old – does that
make him a part of that particular generation? It is interesting to consider
the generation of Israelites that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
They were called a “faithless generation” too. And concerning that generation,
Numbers 32:13 says:

“So Jehovah’s anger blazed against
Israel and he made them wander about in the wilderness forty years, until
all the generation that was doing evil in the eyes of Jehovah came to their
end.” — Numbers 31:13 NW

“So there a whole generation of people
passed away in forty years. Who were included in that generation? Numbers
14:29,31 reads:

“In this wilderness your carcasses
will fall, yes all your registered ones of all your number from twenty
years old upward
, you who have murmured against me… And your little
ones who you said would become plunder, these also I shall certainly bring
in, and they will indeed know the land that you have rejected.” — NW

“So here, everyone who was under twenty
was exempted from being a part of that wicked generation. Of course we wouldn’t
want to impose some firm dogmatism here, and fall into the trap that the
Society has fallen into, but it can be used to illustrate that the assumption
that one as youthful as 10 years old ought to be included in a particular
generation is not something that cannot be challenged. The point I wish to
make here is that they base many conclusions on mere assumptions, assumptions
that can be challenged, and perhaps ought to be challenged. Certainly those
young Israelites who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai with their parents and
heard and saw and felt the divine power there – the flashing lightening and
booming thunder, the smoke and fire and the trembling of the earth – all
of these things terrified even grown men. Surely those little Israelites,
even those younger than 10, never forgot that fear inspiring event. But that
in itself did not make them a part of the wicked, faithless generation that
received Jehovah’s adverse judgment.”

 

It seems obvious that the Watchtower Society has painted
itself into a theological corner regarding the generation of 1914 not passing
away before the complete end of this system of things. And as the years go
by, that corner gets smaller and smaller. Consider: someone born in 1914
would be 78 years old today (1992); a ten year old in 1914 would be 88; a
relatively youthful person of 20 years old would be 98! That the governing
body is clearly worried about this problem was evidenced by the fact that
several of their number favored changing the beginning of the “generation”
to 1957, as reported by Ray Franz in Crisis of Conscience. If the
past is any indication of the future, the Society will continue to affirm
its “generation of 1914” assertion until history absolutely forces them to
make another re-examination of the scriptures, and then “new light” will
result in another interpretation that will preserve their position of authority
and postpone the ultimate crisis yet further into the future. Unless, of
course Christ Jesus’ real return occurs before that time.


What Is the Role of Bible Prophecy in Our Understanding
of the Future?

All of this raises the question, what should we be
able to figure out from Bible prophecy regarding the events of the near future?
Is it reasonable to expect that we should be able to accurately predict future
events relating to the return of Christ? It should be instructive to us to
realize that every generation of believers earnestly expected the return
of Jesus Christ in their lifetime, and if they looked hard enough, they could
find “evidence” in the prophecies of the Bible and the events of their day
to convince them that such was the case. Yet all of them have thus far been
disappointed.

I believe that we can learn a lesson from all of this
if we consider the events of the first century and the first appearance of
Jesus, the Messiah. We are told in Luke 3:15, that “Now as the people were
in expectation and all were reasoning in their hearts about John: `may he
perhaps be the Christ?'” Now, we know that many, many prophecies were recorded
about what the Messiah would, do, what would happen to him, and so forth,
and those who were attracted to him were Jews who knew those prophecies.

Yet the interesting thing about all of this is that
the disciples neither understood nor anticipated these things as they were
happening. When Jesus was explaining how it would be necessary to go to
Jerusalem, to be arrested and put to death, Peter couldn’t believe it! “‘Heaven
preserve you, Lord;’ he said, ‘this must not happen to you.'” These things
had been foretold to happen. Yet the disciples were baffled; they were confused;
nothing was taking place in they way they had expected. It was only
after the fact, after his death and resurrection that it
all came into focus. Yet in the years afterward, they could look back and
realize that all the prophecies came true, but not in a way that they figure
out ahead of time.

I believe it will be that way for us who are eagerly
awaiting his return at the “end of the age.” Today much attention is focused
on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and other prophetic passages in the inspired
Word, as have Christians of all past ages. We can learn a lot from it. We
can be encouraged. We can be reassured that God will triumph over Satan,
and that we as faithful believers can share in that triumph. And some day
we, like the early Christians, will be able to look back and say, “yes, it
happened just as it was written.” But only “after the fact.” But I don’t
think it will turn out the way we may think or speculate. I believe that
we will be just as baffled as were the disciples of the first century.

The important thing to remember is that the disciples
weren’t disapproved because they hadn’t figured everything out ahead of time,
and neither will we be. It can be stimulating and interesting to consider
the prophetic word, but we also need to guard against putting too much confidence
in speculative reasoning, and then spending a lot of energy trying to convince
others that we have it all figured out. Jesus showed us what our attitude
should be when he likened his leaving to a master who left his household
in the charge of his servants and told them:

 

“Therefore keep on the watch, for you
do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day
or at midnight or at cockcrowing or early in the morning; in order that when
he arrives suddenly, he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you
I say to all, Keep on the watch.” — Mark 13:35-37 NW

 

We do not know when the master will return. But we
do know that we must “keep on the watch.” We must stay awake spiritually,
and not be found sleeping when he arrives.


The 144,000

I have always wondered about the Society’s teaching
about the 144,000. Such a small number brings up many questions. For example,
we know that there were at least 5000 disciples in 36 A.D. Of course we cannot
know what the actual percentage of increase was throughout the first and
second centuries. But if you apply the current average rate of increase of
Jehovah’s Witnesses (which the Society feels is an evidence of Jehovah’s
approval and blessing) to that group in 36 A.D., they could easily have reached
144,000 by the end of the first century. Even taking a conservative viewpoint
and cutting that growth rate in half, 144,000 could still have been reached
by A.D. 140. It is known that many, many thousands of Christians were executed
during the persecutions during the reigns of Nero and Domitian. (Some historians
say over a million.) It is also known that many, many thousands were executed
during the reformation when many “back to the Bible” movements began and
were persecuted viciously. Huguenots, Anabaptists, Socinians, Waldenses,
followers of John Huss, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale; all these have
been commended in Watchtower publications as sincere truth-seekers. In view
of all of this, a Watchtower reader questioned how it was possible
that during all those centuries the number of 144,000 had not yet been filled
by the twentieth century. This was addressed in the Question from Readers
in July 1, 1972 Watchtower in this manner:

“A person’s claiming to be a Christian
and even dying for his belief does not in itself mean that he is an approved
servant of Jehovah God. ….It is not death, but faithfulness to the very
death that determines whether an individual will receive “the crown of life.”
Thus the fact that today there is still a remnant of the 144,000
on earth
would show that down to this twentieth century fewer than
144,000 finished their earthly course in faithfulness.”

 

The article goes on to minimize the number of these
early Christians since the history of the period is sketchy, or discredit
them because of some belief differing from current Watchtower teaching. Yet
at the same time the Society asserts that the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”
which they say that Christ Jesus appointed to administer his affairs here
on earth has faithfully functioned during all the centuries down to the present.
For example:

 

“Jesus Christ is the Head of the
congregation, his slave, and his words show that he would strengthen them
to feed his “domestics” right down through the centuries. Apparently
one generation of the “slave” class fed the succeeding generation
thereof
, as well as feeding themselves.” — Watchtower,
January 15, 1975, page 46

“Down through the years the slave-like
congregation has been feeding its true members faithfully and discreetly.
From Pentecost, A.D. 33, up to this present hour this has
been lovingly and carefully performed. Yes, and these “domestics” have been
fed on progressive spiritual food that keeps them abreast
of the “bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is
firmly established.” — Watchtower, July 15, 1960, page
435

 

So one has to wonder who are all these ones who have
been faithfully fed with revealed truth down through the last nineteen centuries?
They seem to be able to find something doctrinally wrong with all of the
known Christian movements of history from the second century onward. Of course
they can excuse their own obvious errors in understanding in times past as
being “present truth” for that time. Yet they are not as charitable regarding
Christians of past eras.

In their answer to the reader’s question in the July
1, 1972 Watchtower, they based their conclusion on the “fact” that
there were still some 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses alive today who professed
to be of the 144,000. One could just as logically argue that since history
records so many more than 144,000 Christian martyrs in the early centuries
that the Watchtower’s belief must be in error. It seems inconceivable

In his letter to the Galatians, after contrasting natural
Jerusalem which was in “slavery with her children” under the Law Covenant,
with heavenly Jerusalem, Paul says:

“But the Jerusalem above is free, and
she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, you barren woman who does
not give birth; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth
pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than
[those] who has the husband.””
— Galatians 4:26,27
NW

 

Since natural Israel, which was represented in this
text by Hagar and the Law Covenant given at Mount Sinai, numbered literally
into the millions, how can it be held by the Watchtower Society that the
144,000 members of Spiritual Israel are more numerous
than that nation of Israel? For this scripture to be true, then Spiritual
Israel must indeed be far greater than 144,000.


Are There Really Two Classes of Christians With Different
Hopes?

Since 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been unique in
their teaching regarding two classes of Christians with different hopes.
This seems to be an outgrowth of their teaching about the 144,000, which
they take to be a literal number. However, there are many unanswered questions
regarding this teaching. The first mention of the 144,000 is in Revelation
7:4-8:

 

“And I heard the number of those
who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe
of the sons of Israel: Out of the tribal of Judah twelve thousand sealed;
out of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Gad twelve
thousand; out of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand;….”

 

The Watchtower states that the tribes here listed are
not literal, but “figurative,” that is they apply to Spiritual Israel. So
then, logically, the 12,000 “sealed” ones out of each tribe must also be
“figurative.” So how can one add up 12 “figurative” 12,000s and come up with
a literal 144,000?

The Watchtower asserts that it must be a literal number
because of the appearance of the “great crowd” in verses 9, 11, and 15:

 

“After these things I saw, and
look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations
and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the
throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches
in their hands… 11 And all the angels were standing around
the throne and the older persons and the four living creatures, and they
fell upon their faces before the throne and worshiped God…
15 That is why they are before the throne of God; and they
are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple [naos]; and
the one seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. “

 

On the other hand, they say that the “24 older persons
around the throne” seen throughout the Revelation (Revelation 4:4,10, 5:8,
11:16, and 19:4) also represent “Spiritual Israel,” but from the standpoint
of the 24 courses of the Levitical Priesthood. So the obvious question becomes,
if “Spiritual Israel” can be depicted as being 24 in number from one standpoint,
and 144,000 from another, why is it not just as logical to say that they
are represented by an “innumerable crowd” from yet another perspective? The
propriety of such an arbitrary application is certainly debatable.

Much is made over the fact that the great crowd is
seen to be before [enopion] the throne rather than
around the throne, this being interpreted to mean that the great crowd
is actually on the earth. Yet in verse 11 the angels and the older persons
(who are said to be around the throne) “fell upon their faces
before the throne of God.” Angels stand before
[enopion] the throne in Revelation 8:2,3, the 144,000 stand on Mount
Zion as well as before [enopion] the throne in Revelation 14:3,5.
By what rule of logic, then, can it be argued that “before the throne” places
the great crowd on earth whereas “before the throne” also places the 144,000
and the angels in heaven?

Far more serious is their argument that the great crowd
serves God in the earthly courtyards of the temple. The
word here is naos, and it means “the divine habitation” [NW INT]
or “sanctuary.” In all its uses, naos refers to the holy and most
holy, or sanctuary of the temple. Hieron is used to refer to the
temple complex and all its courtyards. The New World Translation uses
naos 16 times in the book of Revelation. Four times it is translated
“temple,” five times “temple [sanctuary],” and “sanctuary” in its other
occurrences. In the Interlinear it is consistently translated “divine
habitation.”

In the Watchtower of August 15, 1980, the
article “The “Great Crowd” Renders Sacred Service Where?” admits that “the
Greek word naos refers often to the inner sanctuary representing
heaven itself,” and then adds:

* BUT it was the entire temple
(naos) that had been 46 years in the building

* It was the entire temple
(naos) that was destroyed as a judgment from God

* It was from the courts of the outer
temple (naos) that Jesus drove the money changers

* It was in the outer temple
(naos) that Judas threw back the 30 pieces of silver

* HENCE it is consistent that the “great
crowd” serve God in the earthly court of the spiritual temple

 

With regard to the first two points, John makes it
clear in John 2:19-21 that Jesus was talking about the “divine habitation”
of his body. It was the Jews who twisted his words and applied them to the
literal temple in order to support their false charge of blasphemy against
him. One has to remember that they are quoting Jesus, and therefore one can
hardly use that sort of evidence to establish the true meaning of the word
naos. So these texts do not in themselves prove that the term
naos included the entire temple complex.

If Matthew had used the word naos in his account
about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple, that would support
the Society’s point. However an examination of the Kingdom Interlinear shows
clearly that the word hieron, not naos, is used in this
text. Thus the Society is clearly in error on this point.
The word hieron, used in Matthew 21:12 as well as all the other
gospel accounts, refers to the entire temple complex including its various
courtyards and walls.

The last point regarding where Judas threw the 30 pieces
of silver is certainly inconclusive. In the first place, Judas made his deal
with chief priests in secret, very likely deep within the temple complex,
probably near the temple itself with its sanctuary. Likewise Matthew 27:3-5
makes it clear that he returned his ill-gotten loot to those same chief priests
in an effort to absolve himself of guilt. Certainly to find those priests
Judas would not be looking in the outer courtyards. Note what the
Dictionary of New Testament Theology by Colin and Brown, page 793
says, associating his action with the sanctuary itself, quoting Bible Scholar
G. Schrenk:

“The fact that Judas casts the rejected
pieces of silver into the temple (Mt. 27:5) indicates the permanent defilement
of the sanctuary by the death of Jesus.”

So Matthew may have used the term naos here
in order to further underscore the significance of Jesus’ death. In any case,
this text is hardly conclusive evidence that naos refers to the
“court of the gentiles” as well as the sanctuary in view of the way
naos and hieron are used throughout the rest of the Bible.

Note also in Revelation 11:1,2:

 

“And a reed like a rod was given me
as he said: `Get up and measure the temple [sanctuary] of God and the altar
and those worshiping in it. But as for the courtyard that is outside the
temple [sanctuary], cast it clear out
and do not measure it, because
it has been given to the nations…”

 

It becomes obvious that the Society’s contention that
the great crowd serves in the earthly courtyards of Jehovah’s spiritual temple
in the new order is without foundation. They serve in the sanctuary, or the
“divine habitation” of God. This certainly casts serious doubt on the Society’s
view of the future for those represented by “the great crowd.”

The real question here is whether or not there are
actually two classes. The Watchtower Society used to say that both the 144,000
and the great crowd were heavenly, the great crowd being those who did not
qualify to be of the 144,000 “high calling.” Russell believed that the
opportunity to be of the 144,000 ended in 1881. The failure of his time
prophecies necessitated the extending of that “opportunity” until 1931. Then
in 1935 it was “discovered” that the great crowd was actually an earthly
class represented by the “other sheep” of John 10:16. But is it reasonable
to suppose that Jesus was talking to his disciples about another flock of
“sheep” with a different hope that he would choose nineteen centuries later?
Consider the context of Jesus discussion. Here Jesus discusses his role as
the “fine shepherd” beginning with vs 1:

“I tell you the truth, the man who
does not enter the sheep pen (aule) by the gate, but climbs in by
some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is
the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep
listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When
he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow
him because they know his voice…”

“I have other sheep that are not of
this sheep pen (aule). I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
— John 10:1-4,16 NIV

 

The disciples that Jesus was talking to here were
all members of the Jewish nation. The sheep pen (aule) represented
the entire Jewish nation. Notice that he calls his sheep
out. He does not establish another “sheep pen,” so when he says in vs 10
that he has “other sheep which are not of this
aule, he can only mean of the Jewish nation. Gentiles had
not yet been invited to become his followers, but would be some years later
when Peter preached to Cornelius. So it seems more reasonable to conclude
that he was preparing them for the time when Gentile believers would be invited
into the Christian congregation. That would have had some meaning to those
to whom Jesus was speaking, because when that occurred, they would remember
his words, and understand the significance of them.

The Society connects two phrases, “other sheep” and
“little flock,” from two widely separated scriptures to create an artificial
contrast. Jesus’ words in Luke 12:32 were appropriate, since they were just
a little flock, few in number at that early phase of his ministry. However,
nothing in Jesus’ words indicates that his disciples were to remain a “little
flock.” This argument is more of a play on words than sound scriptural exegesis.

The gospel or “good news” that Jehovah’s witnesses
preach today, which they feel is a fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, “And this
good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth..,”
is different from the gospel which was preached in the first century with
respect to the hope for the future that is offered. The message preached
in the first century centered around Christ Jesus and his redemptive work.
It was a message of reconciliation to God through the ransom of Jesus Christ;
it involved the offer of “sonship” for all those who accepted. That was
the message
to which Christ Jesus referred in Matthew 24:14 when he addressed
his disciples about “this good news of the kingdom.” By contrast,
the “good news” that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach today is in reality a “different
gospel” by virtue of its separating its members into two different classes
with two different hopes. In Romans 5:18-21 Paul sums up the way in which
we are saved:

“Consequently, just as the result of
one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act
of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just
as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so
also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased,
grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also
grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus
Christ our Lord.” — Romans 5:18-21 NIV

 

We cannot help notice the all-inclusiveness of the
above text; Paul contrasts the effects of Adams sin on all men with
the effects, (or the opportunity) of Christ’s ransom on all men. In
Paul’s day there were those who tried to tamper with the good news by making
certain other restrictions necessary to salvation. Another way to pervert
the gospel is by limiting it to a select few, such as only 144,000. However,
the seriousness of such tampering is shown by Paul’s
words:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly
deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to
a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people
are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than
the one we preached to you
, let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you
a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” —
Galatians 1:6-9 NIV

The gospel that Paul here referred to was the one
preached by Paul in the first century and which is recorded in the
Christian Greek scriptures. When Jesus said “This good news
of the kingdom would be preached,” by “this” he meant that which was at close
at hand. Any deviation or change from that message would be a “different
gospel.” The Watchtower Society recognizes that the gospel it preaches is
different from that which has been preached from the first century on. Note
how the Watchtower boasts about its version of the good news:

 

“Let honest-hearted persons compare
the kind of preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom by the religious
systems of Christendom during all the centuries with that done by
Jehovah’s Witnesses since the end of World War 1 in 1918. They are
not one and the same kind. That of Jehovah’s Witnesses
is really “gospel” or “good news”, as of God’s heavenly kingdom that was
established by the enthronement of his Son Jesus Christ at the end of the
Gentile Times in 1914.” — The Watchtower, May 1, 1981, page
17

 

The “different gospel” that Rutherford evolved in 1935
seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding of what was meant by the term
“Abraham’s seed.” Abraham, due to his faith in Jehovah’s promise was given
a blessing that was to encompass all humanity. In Genesis 22:15-18 this promise
is recorded:

 

“And Jehovah’s angel proceeded to call
to Abraham the second time out of the heavens and to say: “`By myself I do
swear,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, `that by reason of the fact that you
have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I
shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like
the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore;
and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by
means of your seed
all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves
due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.'”” — Genesis 22:15-18
NW

In explaining matters as they do, they seem to mix
up what might be termed the “seed of promise,” the seed of Abraham who will
be the means of blessing all mankind, and the rest of Abraham’s “seed” or
descendants who would become as numerous as the sands of the seashore. They
hold that this term, “sands of the seashore,” merely indicates that to Abraham
it was an unknown number, which later was revealed to be limited to 144,000.
But that is not the way the matter is put in the scriptures. There is only
one seed of Abraham through whom the blessings
come:

 

“Surely you know that
those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the
Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations
righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely:
“By means of you all the nations will be blessed.” Consequently those who
adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful
Abraham.” — Galatians 3:7-9 NW

“The promises were spoken to Abraham
and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many
people, but”and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is
Christ.” — Galatians 3:16 NIV

“You are all, in fact, sons of God
through you faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into
Christ have put on Christ. . . Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are
really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” — Galatians
3:26,27,29 NW

 

It is not too difficult to put these texts in their
proper perspective with relation to the promise to Abraham. He was told that
he would have a “seed” through which the blessings would come. This proved
to be Christ himself. Abraham was also told that he would become father to
many nations. These, too, are the natural descendants, or “seed” of Abraham.
But those of Abraham’s descendants who put faith in Christ, were, as Paul
put it, “really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to
a promise.” These heirs of Abraham “were being blessed” by Christ, the sole
seed of Abraham, according to Paul. But their being sons of Abraham did
not make them a part of the “seed” of promise (singular) which is Christ
Jesus alone
.

Because they misunderstand this aspect of Paul’s
discussion, the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses today include
themselves
– the Governing Body as well as the thousands who claim
to be the anointed remnant of the 144,000 on earth today – as part of the
seed through which blessings are to flow. Note this statement in a
recent publication:

 

“Those brought into this new sheepfold
under the Fine Shepherd become the spirit-begotten sons of the Greater Abraham
and thus part of His “seed.” True to this fact, during these last days a
remnant of the spiritual “seed” has been serving as a blessing
to increasing millions of people in more than 200 lands.” — Worldwide
Security Under the Prince of Peace
, pages 80, 81

 

Note here that they don’t speak of themselves as
receiving a blessing, but as serving as a
blessing
. In this way they place themselves as sharing the
role of Christ Jesus
as the seed through whom the
blessing would come.

And consider another teaching in regard to all of this:
that those who entertain the earthly hope, the ones being blessed by Abraham’s
seed, do not have Christ as their mediator. (This seems to have escaped
the notice of most Witnesses that I have talked to.) The same publication
says this:

“It is as Paul wrote to his Christian
fellow worker: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a
man, Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) Was Moses the mediator between Jehovah
God and mankind in general? No, he was the mediator between the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob and the nation of the fleshly descendants. Likewise, the
Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, is not the Mediator between Jehovah God and
all mankind. He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God,
and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000
members
. This spiritual nation is like a little flock of Jehovah’s sheep-like
ones.” — Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace, 1986, pages
10,11

 

Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that Christ Jesus
is the mediator for only that small percentage who aspire to the heavenly
calling, this leaves the vast majority without a mediator. Thus it is only
by association with the Watchtower Society, who represent the governing body
of the remnant of the 144,000, that they can receive God’s approval and blessing.
Thus the Watchtower Society has made itself indispensable
to their salvation; it is no wonder that the organization has such a hold
on its members.

The effect of such a teaching is to distance the individual
from Christ Jesus and Jehovah God by making the organization necessary in
his approach to God. Thus the relationship with God really becomes the
relationship with the organization. For many of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the
organization has almost become God. It has at least come to serve as an
intermediary between those of the “other sheep” and Christ. But nowhere do
the scriptures speak of such a thing. To the contrary, I believe Paul’s words
to Timothy refute this idea:

“First of all, them, I urge that
supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for
all men, for kings and all who are in high
positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life, godly and respectful
in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our
Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator
between God and men
, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a
ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the
proper time.” — 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Revised Standard Version

 

The propriety of praying for “all men” including those
in high political office is validated by the fact that it is God’s will that
all men be saved. It seems obvious that the “all men” in verses 1 and 4 would
be included in the “men” in verse 5. The ransom that Jesus Christ paid was
for all men, not just a few. Thus it seems reasonable that what we read in
verses 1 through 6 ought to be understood as it reads and we should not apply
limitations to parts of it. If his ransom was given for all
men
, then he is logically mediator for all men. This
is not an argument for “universal salvation,” rather it shows that the
opportunity for salvation through Jesus Christ is universal.

The majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that
the Greek Scriptures were written to those in the New Covenant, Spiritual
Israel. Not considering themselves to be a part of Spiritual Israel, they
feel that those scriptures do not really speak to them. And so they feel
that when the scriptures speak of “God’s spirit dwelling in you,” it is not
really talking to them. However the scriptures show that it is either one
way or the other; we either have God’s spirit dwelling in us and we are God’s
sons, or we are walking in harmony with the flesh:

 

“For the minding of the flesh means
death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding
of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the
law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. So those who are in harmony with the
flesh cannot please God. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh,
but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone
does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to
him
…..” — Romans 8:6-9 NW

“So, then, brothers, we are under
obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; for if you
live in accord with the flesh you are sure to die; but if you put the practices
of the body to death by the spirit, you will live. For all who are
led by God’s spirit
, these are God’s sons. For
you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received
a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!”
The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.
If then we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint
heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified
together.” — Romans 8:12-17 NW

According to these Scriptures, we are either sons of
God, or we are “walking according to the flesh.” This is the only relationship
offered to us as Christians. If we deny being a son of God, then in effect,
we deny being a Christian in the sense that it is used in the
Scriptures.

 

Everyone believing that Jesus
is the Christ has been born from God
, and everyone who loves the
one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one. By
this we gain the knowledge that we are loving the children of God, when we
are loving God and doing his commandments.” — 1 John 5:1,2 NW

 

So it seems very clear what our relationship to God
must be. If we really believe that Jehovah is our Father, then it logically
follows that we must, therefore, be his sons. To believe otherwise, one would
have to accept the Watchtower’s teaching that those Scriptures weren’t written
to us.

An even more serious consequence of the Watchtower’s
assertion is that if we are not included in the New Covenant, then by what
means can we expect to have our sins forgiven? Note Jeremiah
31:31,33,34:

 

“`Look! There are days coming,’ is
the utterance of Jehovah, `and I will conclude with the house of Israel and
with the house of Judah a new covenant;… For this is the covenant that
I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance
of Jehovah. `I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write
it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.
And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother,
saying “Know Jehovah!” for they will all of them know me, from the least
one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.
`For I shall forgive their error, and their sin
I shall remember no more
.'” NW

 

Later in the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul discusses
the matter of being “declared righteous.”

 

“Moreover, those whom he foreordained
are the ones he also called; and those whom he called are also the ones he
declared to be righteous. Finally, those whom he declared righteous
are the ones he also glorified.” — Romans 8:30 NW

It is obvious from reading Romans and Hebrews that
those having faith in Christ Jesus are declared righteous. However the Bible
also says that those faithful pre-Christian worshipers of Jehovah were declared
righteous. James speaks of Abraham’s being declared righteous in James
2:21-23:

 

“Was not Abraham our father declared
righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the alter?
You behold that his faith worked along with his works and by his works his
faith was perfected, and the scripture was fulfilled which says: “Abraham
put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,”
and he came to be called “Jehovah’s friend.” — James 2:21-23
NW

 

Ron Frye, writing in The Christian Respondent, makes
some interesting observations regarding the Watchtower Society’s explanation
of this passage:

“Of course if one accepts the Watchtower teaching,
then Abraham cannot be declared righteous in the same sense that first century
Christians were, and so the Watchtower has to apply some creative interpretation
to this passage. In the Watchtower of December 1, 1985 they try
to argue that “Yes, Abraham was declared righteous as a friend of Jehovah,
not as a son with the right to perfect human life or to kingship with Christ.”
Then they appeal to Synonyms of the Old Testament, by Robert
Girdlestone, quoting him as saying, “This righteousness was not absolute,
i.e. such as would commend Abraham to God as a rightful claimant of the
inheritance of sonship.” However this is a highly selective quote and amounts
to another example of dishonest scholarship. Girdlestone is here commenting
on Genesis 18:19, not Genesis 15:6. He is discussing Abraham’s personal
quality of righteousness
which, of course, was not sufficient to discharge
him from sin in the absolute sense. On the previous page he does comment
on Genesis 15:6 and says that “owing to the fact that he had faith in the
promises, God accepted him, acquitted him from the charge of sin, pronounced
him righteous, and conferred on him an inheritance.” See appendix A-27 for
the full text of Girdlestone’s commentary wherein the Society’s misrepresentation
of Girdlestone’s comments should be obvious.

The words of James are interpolated
by the Watchtower Society to say something they do not say. He does not say
that “Abraham put faith in God and it was counted to him as righteousness
as a friend of God.” James says that because of his faith “it was
counted to him as righteousness.” Then he goes on to say “and he came to
be called Jehovah’s friend.” James here draws upon two widely separated Hebrew
texts; one from Genesis 15:6, and the other Isaiah 41:8. In his letter to
all Christians James encourages them to have an active faith like Abraham’s.
Abraham was reconciled to God and came to be called Jehovah’s friend. Being
acquitted of his sin there was no longer any barrier between Abraham and
Jehovah, thus making intimacy possible. Abraham’s righteousness due to faith
is presented by the apostle Paul as the foundation of the very same righteousness
enjoyed by Christians due to faith in Jesus Christ.

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope
believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said
to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he
faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a
hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not
waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened
in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power
to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as
righteousness
.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not
for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness

— for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He
was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our
justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we
have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” — Romans 4:18-5:1
NIV

“What the Society tries to do here
is to make Abraham a special case: he is “declared righteous,” but in a different
sense than those Christians in the first century; “declared righteous as
a friend of God.” They say that this “token” righteousness was necessary
in order for Jehovah to make the covenant that he did with Abraham. However
in so doing they deny the clear teaching of the Scriptures in the matter.
They also overlook James’ statement in the 25th verse regarding Rahab:

“In the same manner was not also Rahab
the harlot declared righteous by works after she had received the messengers
hospitably and sent them out by another way?” — James 2:25 NW

This matter of being declared righteous brings up a
curious circumstance about the Watchtower Society’s two-class teaching. Those
who profess to be of the 144,000 are declared righteous while still in the
flesh, and, if they remain faithful until death, have their salvation assured.
No so for those of the “great crowd.” If they make it through Armageddon,
or are judged worthy to be resurrected afterward, then they have one thousand
years under a new code of laws to prove their integrity. If they make it
through the thousand years, then they face another test of faithfulness when
Satan is loosed. So it will take over ten lifetimes to gain an earthly reward,
but only one to gain immortality in heaven as a member of the 144,000!

The Scriptures, however, present a different hope for
Abraham, and other pre-Christian worshipers of God. Note what the writer
of Hebrews says of such ones in chapter eleven:

 

“By faith Abel offered God a better
sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man…
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built
an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became
heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called
to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went,
even though he did not know where he was going… For he was looking forward
to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” — Hebrews
11:4,7,8,10 NIV

“All these people were still living
by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only
saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were
aliens and strangers on earth… Instead, they were longing for a better
country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their
God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

— Hebrews 11:13,16 NIV

“These were all commended for their
faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned
something better for us so that only together with us would they be made
perfect.”

— Hebrews 11:39,40 NIV

To force this text into their theological view, the
Watchtower interprets the phrase “something better for us” to mean immortality.
In other words the reward that those men of faith would receive was not the
same as what Paul hoped for. But that is not what this scripture is saying.
These men and women received the promise of deliverance from sin and death,
but until Christ came, there could be no fulfillment. But with the coming
of Christ, the promise could be fulfilled. As Jesus told the
crowds:

 

“For I tell you the truth, many prophets
and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear
what you hear but did not hear it.” — Matthew 13:17 NIV

 

So it appears that the “something better for us” was
the privilege of living in the times when those promises could become realities.
But there is not the slightest suggestion that the Christian reward was going
to be superior to that of these faithful servants of God. Now all of them
would realize their fulfillment together. One Bible commentary puts it this
way:

 

“There is here the answer to an implied
objection, that the faith of these suffering heroes was all in vain, seeing
they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises. But, the writer says,
this is a wrong inference, the truth being that God has merely deferred their
reward in order that they may enter along with us of a later age upon the
realization of the promised inheritance. They are waiting for us so that
the whole number of the faithful may be perfected together.” — A Commentary
on the Holy Bible
by J. R. Dummelow

 

This explanation squares with what Jesus had said regarding
the place of those pre-Christian men of faith in relation to the kingdom
of heaven while talking to the religious leaders of his
day:

 

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing
of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the
kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east
and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in
the Kingdom of God.” — Luke 13:28, 29 NIV

 

The Watchtower attempts to fit this scripture
into their theological system by allegorizing it. They would have Abraham
represent Jehovah, Isaac represent Jesus, and Jacob represent the 144,000
of spiritual Israel, and “many from east and west” represent gentile believers.
It is noteworthy that the Society nearly always quotes Matthew’s version
of Jesus’ words, possibly because Luke’s account adds “and all the prophets,”
an element that does not fit into their allegory. However Luke makes it clear
that “all the prophets” will “take their places at the feast in the Kingdom
of God.” It takes creative interpretation to make it say something else.

While the scriptures speak of a “new heavens” and a
“new earth,” nowhere do they partition them into different hopes for different
people:

 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new
earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there
was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God
is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God
himself will be with them and be their God…” He who overcomes will
inherit all this
, and I will be his God and he will be my
son.” — Revelation 21:1-4,7 NIV

 

This scripture is quite regularly used by Witnesses
to prove” the concept of earthly blessings for the “great crowd” in contrast
to the heavenly hope for the 144,000. Yet nowhere is the Bible specific in
partitioning the kingdom in this way. So I believe we should focus not on
where, but on how we get eternal life.
Does it come through belonging to a particular organization, or from having
a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Another serious consequence of the Watchtower’s “different
gospel” is related to a command Jesus gave and which Paul discusses with
the congregation in Corinth:

 

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for
which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the
bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there
is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one
loaf.” — 1 Corinthians 10:16,17 NIV

“For I received from the Lord what
I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took
bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper
he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this,
whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread
and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

— 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
NIV

 

The Watchtower Society says that only those of the
144,000 are permitted to partake in this celebration which the Lord commanded
all of his followers to observe. However Jesus also told the crowds which
included the Scribes and Pharisees that it was necessary to have a sharing
in his blood and flesh in order to have life:

 

“I am the living bread that came down
from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread
is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . Jesus said
to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the
Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you
. Whoever
eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him
up at the last day. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in
me, and I in him.” — John 6:51, 53, 54, 56 NIV

 

I know for a fact that many of Jehovah’s Witnesses
who have been taught that they are of the “other sheep” are deeply concerned
about this. I have been told by several longtime Witnesses that they have
never felt as close a relationship with Jesus as when they were taking communion
in their previous religions. Many have written the Society about this matter,
expressing a deep-felt conviction that, in view of the clear Scriptural testimony
in John, all who hope in Christ should partake. In some congregations,
individuals who did not profess to be of the anointed, but who expressed
their conviction that they should partake, were disfellowshipped, even
though they had not partaken
. Such are the consequences of following
human organizations that presume to speak for God and to be his exclusive
representative in the earth.

 


But Hasn’t God Always Dealt with Mankind Through an
Organization?

Whenever one questions whether the scriptures teach
that God deals with mankind only through an organization, the assertion is
usually made that God has always dealt with mankind through
an organization. The nation of Israel is usually given as a prime example
as well as the first century Christian arrangement. But is it true that God
has always dealt through an organization?

According to Watchtower chronology, in the year 1942
B.C. Jehovah concluded a covenant with Abraham which would eventually bring
blessings to all mankind. It also established that those blessings would
come through the lineage of Abraham. But did that mean that from that time
onward, anyone wanting to have God’s favor would have to go live under the
“authority” of Abraham? Certainly we know from the Scriptures that this was
not the case. It was not until 1513 B.C. that the Law Covenant was established
with its priesthood and sacrifices, and certainly anyone wishing to please
God from that time onward would need to recognize that arrangement and its
prophetic significance. But that was more than 2500 years after man’s creation,
during which time there was no organization representing God on earth.

The Watchtower Society always presents Israel as God’s
exclusive people, strongly implying that he had no dealings with other peoples.
However Amos 9:7 shows that this was not the case:

 

“The Lord says, ‘People of Israel,
I think as much of the people of Sudan as I do of you. I brought the Philistines
from Crete and the Syrians from Kir, just as I brought you from Egypt.” —
Amos 9:7 TEV

 

There is no question that the nation of Israel was
used by God to accomplish a special purpose towards mankind, and that Israelites
who wanted to please God would have to keep the Law to the best of their
ability. This would include having an appreciation for the temple and the
worship carried on there. But would that mean that a person’s relationship
could only come through the Jewish “organization?” If that were so, what
would individuals do when their spiritual leaders and the nation as a whole
went into apostasy? After all, the scriptural record is clear that during
most of their history they were involved in gross idolatry and rebellion
against their God, for which they were eventually cast off as a nation.

It is no doubt true that there were always a few
individuals who were faithful to Jehovah and the Law. But were they gathered
together in some sort of “underground” association with one of the few remaining
faithful priests? Certainly that was not the case during the time of Elijah.
Elijah thought he was the only faithful one left in Israel, but Jehovah informed
him that there were seven thousand who had not worshiped Baal.

When Jesus appeared as the Messiah and began his ministry,
it signaled a fundamental change in God’s way of dealing with mankind. From
now on it would be on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice that men could approach
God. The Jewish age was coming to a close; the Christian era was beginning.
Whereas the law of Moses consisted of decrees written on stone, the new covenant
was written on hearts. Whereas the old covenant was centered about the temple
at Jerusalem, and its ceremonies, the new covenant was associated with heavenly
Jerusalem. Paul makes this contrast in Galatians 4:25, 26:

 

“Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in
Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in
slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she
is our mother.” NIV

 

Peter echoes this thought when he describes the individual
Christian:

 

“You also, like living stones, are
being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 2:5
NIV

 

Perhaps no scripture illustrates the close, personal
relationship between Christ and individual members of his “body” better than
Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

 

“I pray that out of his glorious riches
he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the
saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
-Ephesians 3:16-18 NIV

 

None of these texts indicate that the relationship
between Christ and the individual members of his “body” is anything but a
direct, intimate, personal relationship. When Paul was discussing the matter
of headship, note how Paul put matters in 1 Corinthians
11:3:

 

“Now I want you to realize that the
head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is
man, and the head of Christ is God.” -NIV

 

Note that Paul does not insert any human “channel”
or visible organization between “every man” and Christ. That is something
that humans have done.

 

But how are we to understand the references to the
apostles and elders who had oversight in the first century congregation?
It is true that the “visible church,” which is made up of all who claim to
be Christians, needs some sort of order and assignment of responsibility.
But this visible “church” or congregation must be distinguished from the
“congregation” in the spiritual sense; the “body of Christ,” the “spiritual
temple” that is made of “living stones” which includes all who accept Christ
as their Savior and who walk by the Spirit. To the fledgling Christian
congregation in Ephesus, Paul wrote:

“This is why it says: ‘When he ascended
on high, it was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some
to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s
people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the
Son of God and become mature
, attaining to the whole measure of
the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and
forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and
by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead,
speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is
the Head, that is, Christ.”

— Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV

 

The apostles that Jesus chose served an important and
unique function in the early Christian congregation; they served as a source
of direction and instruction after his leaving them, and much of this has
been preserved for us in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Other spiritually
qualified men were also appointed as elders and teachers. Those “gifts,”
including the Apostles who had been with Christ during his earthly ministry,
were no doubt a wonderful blessing in helping those newly converted ones
to grow to maturity as Christians, as the collective body of Christians itself
matured under the leadership of those men.

When Jesus founded the Christian arrangement, did he
intend for his followers to be ruled throughout the centuries until his return
by the sort of authoritarian organizations we see throughout Christendom,
Jehovah’s Witnesses included? That could hardly be the case since Jesus said
to his disciples when he was yet with them:

 

“Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high
officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever
wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to
be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20:25-28
NIV

 

Paul, Peter and John all warned that in time, some
from among the overseers would abuse their power and draw disciples off after
themselves. Paul warned the Thessalonians that there would be an apostasy
and said, “the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work.” Note Paul’s
warning to the overseers at Ephesus:

 

“Keep watch over yourselves and all
the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of
the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after
I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to
draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three
years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” -Acts
20:28-31

 

Already in John’s day, men such as Diotrophes were
abusing their authority and expelling from the congregation those who
resisted.

Also, in his parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus
indicated that “the wicked one” would over-sow the field that Jesus had planted
with imitation Christians, and that this situation would continue down through
the centuries until his return. Would it make sense, then, for Jesus to place
his followers under the absolute authority of a “hierarchical” system, knowing
it would become corrupt? If Christians were enjoined by divine instruction
to “obey the bishop,” and “to look upon the bishop even as we would look
upon the Lord Himself,” as Ignatius of the early second century put it, then
at what point would individual Christians feel justified in saying “these
men are definitely deviating from the Scriptures, and I shouldn’t follow
them?” Suppose they were told to “Wait upon Jehovah, he will straighten things
out in due time?” If they passively submitted, they would all have wound
up under the authority of the Bishop of Rome and later the Catholic church,
and would have been required to submit to beliefs that are at odds with the
Scriptures. It could be said that Catholics are the descendants of those
who “stuck with the organization.”


But How Would the Preaching Work Get Done Without an
Organization?

Most Witnesses cannot conceive of how Jesus’ words
in Matthew 24:14, (NIV) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached
in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,”
could possibly be accomplished without a world wide publishing and preaching
organization such as the Watchtower Society of today. And yet it is said
of the first century Christians that they preached the gospel throughout
the whole world of their time, carrying the message throughout the entire
Roman Empire — even though they had no printing presses, no radios, no
television networks, not even public address systems. During the intervening
centuries the message of Christianity has been spread to nearly all parts
of the globe.

In order to see themselves as uniquely fulfilling Jesus’
words, Jehovah’s Witnesses have to attach specialized meanings or interpretations
to Jesus’ words. For example, they differentiate between the message that
has been preached by Christians throughout the centuries and the message
that they preach. We should note, however, that when Jesus said
This gospel of the kingdom would be preached,” by “this”
he meant that which was at close at hand, that which was being preached in
his time. That gospel centered around Jesus and the redemption he provided
for mankind. Any deviation or change from that message would be a “different
gospel,” in the sense that Paul used the term in Galatians 1:6-9. But note
how the Watchtower boasts about its version of the good news:

 

“Let honest-hearted persons compare
the kind of preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom by the religious systems
of Christendom during all the centuries with that done by Jehovah’s
Witnesses since the end of World War
1 in 1918. They are not
one and the same kind
. That of Jehovah’s Witnesses is really “gospel”
or “good news”, as of God’s heavenly kingdom that was established by the
enthronement of his Son Jesus Christ at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914.”
The Watchtower, May 1, 1981, page 17

 

But is this really the “this good news” that
Jesus said would be preached, or is it a “different gospel,” a perversion
of which Paul warned in Galatians 1:6-9? It has been demonstrated earlier
in this letter quite conclusively, I believe, that the Watchtower Society’s
doctrine about Christ’s return and their own “appointment” as God’s exclusive
representative on earth is without Scriptural foundation. Hence, the “good
news” that they preach is a “different gospel,” and cannot be in fulfillment
of Jesus words.

In order to emphasize their concept of Christ’s “Messianic
Kingdom,” they often play down the fact that Jesus has been ruling as king
ever since the 33 A.D., saying that he merely has a “spiritual kingdom” over
his followers. However, Ephesians 1:20-23 indicates that he is more than
just a “king elect”:

 

“…he [Jehovah] raised him up from
the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above
every government and authority and power and lordship, not only in this system
of things, but also in that to come. He also subjected all things under his
feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation which is his
body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.” NW

Likewise, his followers are included in that functioning
kingdom, as Ephesians 2:6 says:

 

“And God raised us up with Christ and
seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that
in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” NIV

 

The Watchtower publications often speak disparagingly
of the work of missionaries of other Christian organizations, oftentimes
referring to their converts as “rice Christians.” Yet it must be admitted,
that the success of Jehovah’s Witnesses in many parts of the world such as
Africa has been built largely upon the foundation of Christians who came
before them. Christian missionaries have spent years living in jungles, deserts,
and remote areas of the world, first learning, in many cases unwritten,
languages, and then translating parts or all of the Bible into those languages.
They have established hospitals, schools, churches, community services, as
well as teaching people the Word of God. And while the Watchtower may criticize
other missionary’s humanitarian efforts, didn’t Jesus indicate by his parable
of the Good Samaritan, that such kinds of efforts were a part of Christianity?
Yet it is on that scene, Watchtower missionaries arrive to begin making converts.

When one looks at the world, it is evident that there
are vast areas that have not yet been reached with the message of Christ,
by Jehovah’s Witnesses or anyone else. Yet how does this fit in with the
Watchtower’s concept of the urgency of the times? How do they expect to reach
all the people of Asia or the Middle East in the “few short months or years”
before the “end of this system of things?”

The Watchtower Society insists that “house to house”
preaching was the method that the Apostles used, and the fact that Jehovah’s
Witnesses preach from “house to house” identifies them as the ones doing
the preaching work that Jesus foretold. But is that really the sense of the
Greek words kat’ oikous in Acts 20:20, translated “house to house”
in the New World Translation? Notice how the Jerusalem Bible translates Acts
20:20:

 

“I have preached to you, and instructed
you both in public and in your homes.”

 

The same Greek words kat’oikous (also used
in the distributive, not consecutive sense) are also used in Acts 2:46. But
here the New World Translation says:

 

“And day after day they were in constant
attendance at the temple with one accord, and they took their meals in private
homes and partook of food with great rejoicing and sincerity of
heart…”

 

To be consistent, the New World Translation would have
to say “they took their meals from house to house.” It is evident that the
Society has distorted the meaning of this phrase in Acts 20:20 to fit it
into their theological system. There is nothing wrong with calling “from
house to house” if it effectively reaches people. But to make it the “trademark”
of true Christians goes beyond what the Scriptures teach.

 


The “Faithful and Discreet Slave”

But what about “the faithful and discreet slave” class
which Jesus appointed over his congregation to govern and lead it down through
the centuries? This is a primary teaching of the Watchtower Society used
to establish its authority over God’s interests on earth. Note a recent statement
of this belief:

 

“Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that this
parable (Matt 24:45-47) pertains to the one true congregation of Jesus Christ’s
anointed followers. Beginning with Pentecost, 33 C.E., and continuing
the 19 centuries since then
, this slave-like congregation has been
feeding its members spiritually, doing so faithfully and discreetly.” —
Watchtower, March 1, 1986, page 24

 

But is that the way the apostles understood Jesus
illustration? It is helpful to take a careful look at the context of Jesus
illustration as recorded in Luke chapter 12. Jesus was emphasizing to his
disciples that they would not know when the Master would arrive. After hearing
Jesus illustration about the householder who was surprised by the visit of
a thief, Peter asked, in verse 41, “Lord, are you saying this illustration
to us or also to all?” It is helpful to compare other translations of this
text. For example, the Living Bible renders Jesus’
answer:

 

“And the Lord replied, “I’m talking
to any faithful, sensible man whose master gives him the
responsibility of feeding the other servants.” — Luke 12:42, 43
LIV

 

Did Peter understand this to have a personal application
to each individual Christian? Apparently so, since he says in his first
letter:

 

“Above all things, have intense love
for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to
one another without grumbling. In proportion as each one has received a gift,
use it in ministering to one another as fine
stewards*
of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various
ways.” 1 Peter 4:8-10 NW

 

Note the footnote in the NW reference Bible, “*Or,
house managers.” Literally “house administrators.”
Yet this is obviously addressed to individual Christians. Surely
Peter wouldn’t make a misapplication after having asked Jesus directly about
the matter. Thus it seems more reasonable to apply the illustration of the
“faithful and discreet slave” to how individual Christians should conduct
themselves while they await the return of their master rather than to try
to make a prophecy out of it. A careful consideration of Jesus parable bears
this out. The New World Translation renders Jesus answer at Luke
12:42-46:

 

“And the Lord said: ‘Who really is
the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over
his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies
at the proper time? Happy is that (ekeinos) slave, if his master
on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him
over all his belongings. But if ever that (ekeinos) slave should
say in his heart, “My master delays coming,” and should start to beat the
menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the
master of that (ekeinos) slave will come on a day that he is not
expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish
him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful
ones.'”

 

Watchtower doctrine would have it that there are two
slaves spoken of here; a “faithful and discreet” slave, which they apply
to themselves, and an “evil slave,” which are any who disagree with their
supposed appointment to authority over the Master’s household. But by no
stretch of logic or the rules of grammar can such an understanding be defended.
The word “that” (ekeinos) is a demonstrative adjective and must
relate to its antecedent, the “faithful and discreet slave” of verse
45.(18) Hence it is obvious that Jesus is
talking about one slave for which there are two eventualities; he can be
a “faithful slave,” or he can become an “evil slave.”

Another point that can be noted is that it is the “evil” slave who seems
to have an opinion about when the Master should return. He is the one who
has decided that his Master “delays” and proceeds chastise or “beat” his
fellow slaves.(19) The “faithful slave” merely
continues to do what his Master has assigned, waiting patiently for his Master’s
return. Also, the fact that the “evil” slave takes it upon himself to chastise
his fellow slaves indicates that he feels qualified to judge them. However,
Paul said at Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge the house servant of another?”
It is the Master, Jesus Christ, who will judge his slaves. The course of
faithfulness and discretion is to leave the judging to the Master.

Did the Apostles and “older men” of Jerusalem serve as a “governing body,”
administering the affairs of the Master’s household, setting a precedent
for Christians in the centuries to follow? Sometimes the incident recorded
in Acts chapter 15 is cited as evidence that such was the case. However,
Scholars recognize that the Jerusalem meeting to settle the controversy over
circumcision was a one time emergency council, precipitated by problems caused
by “Jews from Jerusalem.”(20) There is no
evidence that the Apostles acted as a “governing body” over the first century
church. There are no records of any similar “councils” in the entire New
Testament.

Sometimes an appeal is made to the position of the Apostles in the first
century as evidence for a “governing body.” But the fact is that there is
no evidence to support such a claim. Paul, the most visible and prolific
contributor to the Christian writings, did not travel to Jerusalem regularly
for meetings with a “governing body.” By his own statements, he visited only
James and Peter three years after his conversion, and did not return to Jerusalem
for 14 years. None of his epistles were written from Jerusalem. There is
no record that he submitted his letters for “committee approval” to his peers
before publishing them.

The apostles were unique in the history of Christianity, as were the miraculous
gifts of the holy spirit. They were Jesus’ direct representatives on earth
during their lifetime for the teaching and establishment of the Christian
faith. They had no successors, as the testimony of the second and third century
Christian writers adequately confirms. The simple fact of the matter is that
Paul and the others were directed by Holy Spirit, individually. Christ Jesus,
through the Holy Spirit could direct the apostles, and all Christians for
that matter, without the aid of a human organization. The phenomenal spread
of Christianity through the entire empire in just a few decades is testimony
the effectiveness of Christ’s direction of his followers, and that despite
persecution by both Jews and Romans, false brothers, and heretics of all
descriptions. I believe that Jesus has continued to direct his “church” right
down to the present day, and that the attempt any group of men to robe themselves
with the authority of Apostles and presume to speak for God does not square
with scriptural teaching.

With regard to their own divine appointment as the “faithful and discreet
slave,” a recent Watchtower article claimed:

 

“In 1918, when Jesus Christ inspected those claiming to be
his slaves, he found an international group of Christians publishing Bible
truths for use both inside the congregation and outside in the preaching
work. In 1919 it truly turned out to be as Christ had foretold: “Happy is
that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you,
He will appoint him over all his belongings.” These true Christians entered
into the joy of their Master.” — Watchtower March 15, 1990, page
14

 

Of course, the governing body of the Watchtower Society is here identifying
itself as “that slave.” In this they seem to be in conflict with their own
teaching on this point. On the one hand, they claim that the “faithful slave”
has always existed down through the centuries until the present, faithfully
caring for the Master’s household. On the other hand they claim that when
Jesus returned in 1914, he surveyed all those who claimed to be his slaves,
and in 1919 he found only Charles Taze Russell and his group worthy of being
entrusted with all of his earthly interests.

This raises some interesting questions when one considers that Russell himself
was something of a religious maverick; he left the Presbyterian denomination
and formed his own group. He formed no associations with other religious
groups, being, in fact, quite critical of them all. If that “faithful slave”
of nineteen centuries was still serving faithfully in the 1870s, how did
Russell come to be associated with it and represent it? Apparently Russell
did not find it, nor did it find him. Or did “that faithful slave” suddenly
become unfaithful and have to be replaced in 1919 by Russell and his group?
If so, then how can the “faithful slave” be said to have been faithfully
serving throughout the previous 19
centuries?(21)

It is not necessary to go to such “creative explanations” to understand Jesus’
illustration about the faithful slave. Each and every one of has the opportunity
to be either a faithful slave or an unfaithful slave. It should be our desire
as individual Christians to found doing the Master’s will when he unexpectedly
returns.

Probably you are wondering by now, well, what are you going to do now? Where
do you go from here? Some have in mind Peter’s words to Jesus, “Lord,
whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life
.” I have
heard many Witnesses when despairing over problems within the organization
express that thought in terms of “What organization would be any better?”
But that is not what Peter said. He said “whom shall we
go away to? You have the saying of everlasting life.” So
it is really the person of Christ Jesus that we should go to. His “sayings
of everlasting life” are recorded in the Scriptures, and that is where we
should turn.

I do not believe that any organization or church can claim to be the exclusive
“channel” or “appointed authority” representing God in the earth today. Yet
he can use groups of men in accomplishing his purpose. But that use has to
be contingent on to what extent they use or are guided by the counsel and
instructions in his Word. It would seem that Russell’s group originally sought
to be guided by the Bible, but what started out as an idealistic movement
has become increasingly more authoritarian, more oppressive, and more intrusive
into the precious individual relationship that every Christian should have
with God. Its claims of exclusive authority and superiority are both immodest
and unfounded. It has shown itself to be afraid to expose its history and
teaching to the light of open examination.

 

At Romans 9:2 Paul says:

 

“Before Christ and my own conscience in the Holy Spirit I
assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something
that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is
the condition of my brothers…” — Phillips

 

I feel the same way about “my people,” Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like Paul, I
still want to help “my people.” I still consider them my friends and want
the best for them.

I value my Christian freedom now. I have no desire to become enslaved to
men again. Rather than view the world as divided into two camps, Jehovah’s
Witnesses and Satan’s organization, I can now view people as individuals
and not have to look for a “label” to know how to view them. It is a good
feeling to be able to do what is just and fair by assessing each person in
an unbiased way for what he is as a person.

I believe that the apostolic church is alive and well, even in this twentieth
century. It does not need elaborate man-made organization. Just before leaving
his disciples, Jesus assured them, “And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.
” (Matt 28:20 NIV). I believe that he has
been. He has been directing his congregation ever since the first century.
It is not associated with any particular human organization. But rest assured,
Jesus knows who his sheep are, and he looks after them, and sustains them
and will continue doing so until his return. To be sure, the “weeds” are
certainly in evidence wherever one looks, and often it seems that they outnumber
the wheat. Though claiming to be Christians, their course of life and unrighteous
conduct belies that claim and brings reproach upon God. It is a condition
that Jesus has permitted during these many centuries and it will continue
until the harvest time. At that time, the parable continues:

 

“The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed
out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will
throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing
of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their
Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” — Matthew 13:41-43 NIV

 

It is my prayer that we may all attain to life in that kingdom together.

1. My father, who
at that time was not a Witness, wanted very much for me to continue my education,
an opportunity he had never enjoyed. Although I was always a good student
and enjoyed learning, Witness teaching had convinced me that the “end” was
too close to waste four years pursuing “higher education.” The Watchtower
bias against “higher education” and “high paying jobs” and “career” is obvious
to the regular reader of the Watchtower. For example, the August
15, 1985 Watchtower says:”Many today worship sex, pleasure, riches,
and higher education with the same intensity that the ancient Ephesians did
Artemis.” These phrases take on a decidedly negative connotation and are
usually contrasted with the organizationally approved goal of becoming a
full time “Pioneer” publisher, missionary, or member of the Watchtower
headquarters staff. These goals are regularly encouraged at congregation
meetings and assemblies. On the other hand, youths who choose to attend a
university are considered “spiritually weak.” Within the congregation exists
a system of “perks” and rewards for youths following the approved course.
My son, who was highly regarded by most in the congregation, was removed
from his “privilege” of carrying the microphones during the meetings because
several elders felt he was not active enough in congregation activities and
was also a student at the university and therefore was no longer considered
“exemplary.” For this reason, I also came under a great deal of criticism
for not setting a good example as an elder and a father in instructing my
family. This bias against education even extends to those who become Witnesses
after having completed a university education. Nearly every elder I know
who has a degree has told me privately that he feels a certain amount of
subtle discrimination and even distrust on account of his education with
the result that they tend to hide their education from other
Witnesses.

2. For a complete
discussion of thought stopping techniques, I refer the reader to Steven Hassan’s
book Combating Cult Mind Control, pages 62, 63. Thought stopping
methods among Witnesses often involve the use of a scripture. For example,
Watchtower doctrine has for years insisted that the end is “just around the
corner,” a “few short months, or years” away. The Watchtower has often answered
those who question this interpretation by quoting 2 Peter 3:13, “…in the
last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule… and saying, ‘Where
is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell
asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s
beginning.'” Of course no Christian who anxiously awaits his Lord’s return
wants to be cast in the role of a “ridiculer.” Now, there is nothing wrong
with questioning human interpretation of scripture, examining the scriptural
evidence to see if such interpretation can be supported. It is quite another
thing to ridicule the scriptural teaching that Christ will return. By
characterizing honest questioning of interpretation as “ridiculing the teaching
that Christ will return,” the Watchtower Society effectively stops any further
thought on the matter in the Witness mind, and thus protects its doctrine
from careful scrutiny.

3. The Watchtower
Society does not claim to be “inspired” in the sense that the Bible writers
were. In fact, up until 1972, the masthead message contained the following
disclaimer: “Ever since “The Watchtower” began to be published in July of
1879 it has looked ahead into the future… No, “The Watchtower” is no inspired
prophet, but it follows and explains a book of prophecy the predictions in
which have proved to be unerring and unfailing until now. “The Watchtower”
is therefore under safe guidance. It may be read with confidence, for its
statements may be checked against that prophetic Book.” Yet while disclaiming
to be “inspired,” they claim to be “spirit directed,” and have strongly implied
that what they write is directed by God. For example, Rutherford wrote: “A
few excerpts are taken from that article to show its tenor and to show the
real attitude of the Elijah-John-the-Baptist class. These quotations are
not for criticism, of course, but to show how the Lord foreknew and foretold
what was to come to pass, and how he doubtless caused his angels
to direct the preparation of exactly what was published.
” –Light
Volume 1
, 1930 page 195. Furthermore, Qualified To Be Ministers,
1967 edition, page 156 said: “If we have love for Jehovah and for the
organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the
Bible says, ‘believe all things,’ all the things that The Watchtower
brings out…” Rutherford was even more to the point in the May 1, 1922
Watchtower, when he said: “To abandon or repudiate the Lord’s chosen
instrument means to abandon or repudiate the Lord himself, upon the principle
that he who rejects the servant sent by the Master thereby rejects the Master…”
Thus it is clear that the Society insists that although not “inspired,” all
Witnesses are required to accept that which is taught by the “spirit directed”
organization be considered as coming from God himself. Thus I will leave
the reader to ponder the difference between “inspired” and “spirit directed”
in Watchtower jargon.

4. The Society
tries to create the impression that World War I was an unexpected event,
one which took the world by complete surprise, to support their contention
that its origins were supernatural. For example, the 1/22/73 Awake quotes
Joachim Remak: “Nowhere, even in the summer of 1914, was a calculated, advance
decision made for global war.” The 9/8/83 Awake quotes Henry Kissinger as
saying that World War 1 “was a war no one wanted and a catastrophe that no
one could have imagined.” While such statements may reflect the personal
opinions of the individuals quoted, yet historians give a completely different
picture. For example, Barbara Tuchman, in The Guns of August, traces the
historical origins of the war from the standpoint of the actions taken by
the governments involved. It is clear that the Germans began working on the
battle plans for a war against France shortly after the Franco-Prussian war.
The French became aware of such plans in 1904 when an officer of the German
General Staff defected and gave the battle plan to the French
authorities.

5. I can remember
the futility of trying to defend the Society’s teaching to someone who knew
his Bible. I learned to quickly change the subject whenever Romans 13 came
up in conversation in service. One brother was asked to debate that subject
with a Baptist minister. He refused, saying “they have the better of the
argument, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself.” Years later, he asked
an elder, “Was I wrong for believing what the Society later admitted was
in fact true?” He was told “Yes you were wrong, because that was “the truth”
for that time and you were obligated to support it.”

6. In one case
that I know of, the husband had an extramarital relationship with another
woman, but because it involved an “unnatural” sex act, the elders said his
wife did not have Scriptural grounds for divorce. She was disfellowshipped
because she remarried. A lot of elders would say that it made little difference
that the Society later changed its position, the fact that she went ahead
and remarried proved her wrong. She should have “waited on Jehovah” (decades
later) to correct matters instead of “running ahead of the
Society.”

7.
Name changed to
protect the guilty!

8. Witnesses used
to consider this an action individuals might take with respect to someone
who was walking disorderly, and whom they might consider spiritually dangerous
to associate with. But a recent change made it a congregational action,
obligating every member of the congregation to cut off all social contacts
with the person so “marked,” associating with them only at congregational
meetings. If the elders decided to “mark” an individual, a talk would be
given at the meeting, and without naming the person, discuss the “disorderly
conduct” in such a manner that all in the congregation would know who was
being thus “marked.”

9. My wife and
I talked a circuit overseer whom I have known for many years, and he told
us about a circuit overseer who although married, committed fornication with
a sister in a congregation he was visiting and got her pregnant. She confessed
the matter to the elders and named him as the father. He denied the matter
and she was disfellowshipped, as much for “false accusation” as for her own
sin (for which she showed repentance.) He continued to serve and in time
was appointed District Overseer. Years later at a district assembly, he saw
the sister, now reinstated, with her son on a program at the assembly. Conscience
stricken, he confessed his sin and resigned.

 

This incident illustrates an important
question. I can accept that a circuit overseer might go “bad” and even be
able to fool his fellow elders, even as Judas went bad. But to say that Holy
Spirit appointed him to a more responsible position while he was “living
a lie” is something that I cannot accept.

10.

However Dr. Newton goes on to suggest that Ptolemy may also have “invented”
the length of the reigns of the Babylonian kings in his “Insight on the News”
in the December 15, 1977 Watchtower picked up the Scientific American
article which reported on Newton’s book:

“…According to Newton, `all relevant
chronology must now be reviewed and all dependence upon Ptolemy’s [king]
list must be removed.’ -October 1977.

What the Watchtower failed to mention
was that Dr. Newton attributed his information about Ptolemy’s chronology
to a Mr. Couture of Santee, California. Mr. Couture, who is one of Jehovah’s
Witnesses, got his information from the Aid to Bible Understanding,
a publication of the Watchtower Society, and used this to convince Dr. Newton,
who is not a historian. Other information on Assyrian chronology was also
provided by Mr. Couture which, according to Dr. Newton, “I did not verify
independently.” So here we have the Watchtower indirectly quoting the Watchtower
as an outside “expert” witness in defense of their own
chronology!

11.

The Revised Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version,
Rotherham’s, all use “for Babylon.” The Jerusalem Bible says: “Only when
the seventy years granted to Babylon are over.” Goodspeed’s: “As soon as
Babylon has finished seventy years.” New English Bible: When a full seventy
years has passed over Babylon.” Byington’s: “As soon as Babylon has had a
full seventy years.” The Anchor Bible: “Only when Babylon’s seventy years
have been completed.”

12. Some commentators
point out that since the number “70” is sometimes used in the Bible as an
approximate number, that the seventy years should begin in 605 B.C.E. when
the Babylonians decisively defeated Egypt at Carchemish. However this would
make the period of Babylonian supremacy run only 66 rather than 70 years.
Also to be considered is the fact that some of the nations in the area became
vassals to Babylon before the battle of Carchemish (and some considerably
afterward.) In fact, from the time that they were granted “supremacy,” they
continued to subjugate nations throughout the period until their empire suddenly
fell to the Persians. See Gentile Times Reconsidered, page
117.

13. Of course
the Society is not the only one to do this. George Storrs, an early associate
of Russell, tried to cut nearly 100 years off the list of Persian kings in
order to have the counting of the 70 weeks begin during the reign of Cyrus,
claiming one would have to do that to be true to the Bible. Also fundamentalists
who insist on literal 24 hour creative days deny overwhelming scientific
evidence from many lines of evidence, thinking they have to deny the secular
evidence in order to hold true to the Bible.

14. The Watchtower Society, along
with others, interprets the “seven times” to be seven years. However, there
is a problem here in that the activities of Nebuchadnezzar are well documented
by cuneiform texts throughout his reign. In fact, there is no seven year
period that is unaccounted for during which his “madness” could have occurred.
However, the Aramaic word iddan used here commonly means “time,
period, season,” and thus it is not necessary to insist upon “years” as the
only correct translation. Thus many scholars believe that the “seven times”
probably referred to a much shorter period of time, perhaps “seasons.” If
this is the case, then the Watchtower Society’s transformation of “seven
times” or “years” into 2520 years has even less Scriptural basis. If
Nebuchadnezzar’s madness was actually seven literal years, they would certainly
not have been “prophetic years” of 360 days as the Society’s mathematical
procedure assumes. Using the actual length of a solar year would then give
us nearly 2557 years – not 2520. Adding to the confusion is the fact that
the calendar used by the Jews and the Babylonians was a solar-lunar system
which required the periodic use of intercalary months. Thus we would have
to know the exact date when Nebuchadnezzar’s madness began to know exactly
how many days to convert into years. If the Author of the Bible intended
for us to use the account for the purposes of date fixing, it is indeed strange
that the information contained therein is so vague.

15. To say that
the treading down of “Jerusalem” refers to the persecution of the remnant
of Christ’s followers yet on earth doesn’t help, since that persecution did
not stop in 1914, but continues to this day. Neither does the explanation
that casting down Satan from heaven constitutes an end to the “trampling”
of heavenly Jerusalem help, since it is the gentiles who
are said to do the trampling, not Satan. The word “gentile” is used everywhere
in the Bible to distinguish people of all other nations from Jews, and never
refers to Satan. So the question of how Gentile trampling of Jerusalem stopped
in 1914 remains unanswered. For a complete discussion, see
Gentile Times Reconsidered, by Carl Jonsson, page 134.

16. Karl Burganger, in The
Watch Tower Society And Absolute Chronology
, published by Christian
Koinonia International, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. One quickly becomes
dismayed at the lengths that Russell, and later Rutherford and the Watchtower
leadership went in trying to preserve their 1914 chronology. Originally Russell
relied on Ptolemy’s Canon as evidence for what he thought was the “absolute”
date to which to anchor his chronology. When he learned that Ptolemy did
not support his 536 B.C. date for Cyrus’ first year, he began attacking Ptolemy
as unreliable. Instead, Russell claimed support from his “parallel cycles”
of the “Jewish Age.” Also he claimed that measurements taken within the Great
Pyramid of Egypt confirmed all of his dates. Both of these “proofs” were
in time discarded as well. Next, it was supposed that the Greek Olympiad
system could be relied upon, but scholars recognize that it is of no use
for any date earlier than the third century B.C. For a number of years, the
year 539 B.C. was called an “absolute” date on which to anchor their chronology.
While scholars generally accept 539 B.C. as the date of Babylon’s fall, the
Watchtower Society has had to admit that it is no more “absolute” than any
other date in Neo-Babylonian history. Recent scholarship has established
absolute dates based on three astronomical diaries; Strm. Kambys.400 which
fixes 523 B.C. as the seventh year of Cambyses, VAT 4956 which fixes 568
B.C. as Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year, and B.M.31312 which fixes events in the
year 652 B.C. Rather than use VAT 4956, which makes it an easy matter to
date Nebuchadnezzar’s 17th year to 587 B.C., they prefer Strm.400 which,
with much greater difficulty, allows them to work back to 539 B.C., which
date they must have. They then proceed to try to undermine the validity of
the other two diaries, in effect saying that no date earlier than 539 can
be relied upon. However, what they should realize is that any argument leveled
against the astronomical diaries falls with equal force upon all of them.
So they are actually undermining the historical underpinnings of their own
chronology. They have thus placed themselves in the curious position of “shelling
their own ship.”

17. What seemed
to have spurred all of this interest in trying to predict things by Bible
time prophecies was the prediction made by Robert Fleming that the power
of the papacy would be broken by 1889-1898. The French Revolution in 1898
seemed to many to be a remarkable fulfillment of his prediction, made nearly
a hundred years before and published by Fleming in his book written in 1701,
The Rise and Fall of Papacy. Shortly after the outbreak of the French
Revolution, many recalled Fleming’s book, and it was reprinted and widely
distributed. The book created a sensation and seemingly validated the idea
that the Bible could be used in such a way. It did much to stimulate study
of Bible prophecy after the French Revolution. As a result the date 1798
was accepted by most Second Adventist groups as marking the beginning of
the “time of the end.” This date was adopted by Russell’s group and later
changed to 1799. This date was held as valid by the Watchtower Society until
at least 1922.

18. The Watchtower
Society seems to prefer Matthew’s account of this parable, perhaps because
the possibility of two outcomes is less apparent. However the grammatical
construction of Matthew’s account and the use of “that slave” is exactly
the same as in Luke’s.

19. Jim Penton,
in an editorial in The Bible Examiner, August 1981 says: “But the popes of
Rome have not been the only ones to proclaim themselves our Lord’s especial
slave… So in our own day there are those who have gone so far as to claim
that they are that ‘faithful and discreet slave,’ but, curiously, beat any
of their spiritual brothers who do not recognize them as such. Too often
men have looked for Christ’s revelation from heaven on a specific date, and
when he did not come as they expected, they have used their spiritual authority
as supposed members of the ‘faithful and discreet slave class’ to strike
out at others who have questioned both their misguided faith and their lack
of discretion. Thus they have not really given their fellow slaves true spiritual
food at the proper time; rather they have fed them the spiritual “junk food”
of false prophecy. Equally significantly, when the master has
delayed according to their speculations, like the “evil slave” of
Matthew 24:48-51, they have become beaters of their fellow
slaves.”

20. The noted
scholar Albert Barnes, on page 473 of Barnes’ Notes on New Testament
comments regarding the Jerusalem council: “This council has been usually
appealed to as the authority for councils in the church, as a permanent
arrangement; and especially as an authority for courts of appeal and control.
But it establishes neither, and should be brought as an authority for neither…
(3). There is not the slightest intimation that anything like permanency
was to be attached to this council; or that it would be periodically or regularly
repeated. It will prove, indeed, that when cases of difficulty occur… or
when contentions arise, it will be proper to refer to Christian men for advice
and direction. Such was the case here; and such a course is obviously proper…
But the example of the apostles and elders should not be pleaded as making
such assemblies of Divine right and authority, or as being essential to the
existence of the church of God… Besides, it should never be forgotten –
what, alas, it seems to have been the pleasure and the interests of ecclesiastics
to forget – that neither the apostles nor elders asserted any
jurisdiction over the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia; that they
did not claim a right to have these cases referred to them; that
they did not attempt to ‘lord it’ over their faith or their consciences.
The case was a single, specific, definite question, referred to them;
and they decided it as such.”

21. I believe
that this question has some very serious implications for the Society and
puts them in a theological dilemma. If the “faithful slave” did become unfaithful
and have to be replaced, then it calls into question whether there ever was
such a “faithful slave” down through all those centuries. (After all, the
Society cannot seem to pinpoint any groups that they would characterize as
being faithful enough to be worthy of that distinction.) If the faithful
slave did not exist during these centuries, then it calls into question their
interpretation of Jesus’ parable as applying to a “class” rather than an
individual. If, on the other hand, they now teach that the slave did become
unfaithful and had to be replaced, they will have to make a major change
in their theology. It seems interesting that the Watchtower Society has the
same problem with establishing the historical roots of its authority as does
the Catholic Church. Just as the Catholic Church is unable to show a historical
line of succession of its Popes back to Peter, so the Watchtower Society
is unable to show a transition from the “faithful slave” of nineteen centuries
to itself as the current representative of that “slave.”

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