[This article was contributed by Apollos]
At our District Convention this year I was put in that awkward situation where the speaker asks for personal affirmation of a point that he has just made by means of audience applause, but I was pretty sure I didn’t agree. When everyone around you spontaneously bursts into enthusiastic applause, you certainly feel like a bit of a party-pooper if you do not join in. On the other hand should we be obliged to publicly agree with everything we hear because of peer pressure?
The point made was this. Some have been disappointed that the end seems to have taken longer to come than expected. A demonstration was given of a brother becoming distressed over the human suffering he reads about in the news. His daughter comforts him by pointing out from the yearbook that 260K were baptised last year. The question was then posed to the audience “would you be prepared to wait one more year for the end to come if it meant 260,000 more getting baptized?”
Let’s start with the positive. Of course it’s good news that we have large numbers of new people wanting to make a dedication to God each year. This in itself is to be applauded and I am happy to be among the supporters.
Turning to the actual question that was asked, my personal response is that I trust I would be willing to wait any number of years – 1, 2, 20 or until death. I have faith that Jehovah has determined the optimal appointed time to bring this system to a close. However the way the question was posed implied to me that we are being selfish to want it to come sooner rather than later. If we logically extend the point, the speaker was asking us to agree that the trade was a fair one – all human suffering over the past 12 months was outweighed by an increase in the number of baptized publishers. If that were true then the trade would always be a fair one, not only for next year, but for all subsequent years as well, until such time as no one is responding to the message at all. In that case we should be praying for God’s Kingdom to be delayed, not for it to come.
The picture is of course bigger than that. Although it is scripturally true that one of the reasons the end has not come yet is to give people a chance to make a decision (2 Pet 3:9), God cannot simply be playing a numbers game. A simple examination of the math will confirm this. Although laudable that 260K were baptised last year, we must consider that the world population was added to by over 70 million births, providing a net growth of over 40 million. A high proportion of this massive number is being born into the conditions of extreme suffering that we are saying we think is fair trade for the tiny percentage baptised. If we accept our doctrine that only those who have accepted the truth will survive Armageddon and the remainder will die eternally, then we end up applauding in support of prolonging things by another year during which another 40 million will potentially suffer now and then die eternally (I’m using the net growth figure on the basis that the dying population still get resurrected).
In addition, as the world’s population increases, our annual baptism figure is actually reduced compared to 15-20 years ago.
Jehovah evidently has full justification for having prolonged the end of the system, but I still feel uncomfortable showing public support for it to be prolonged further based on questionable statistical logic. Now granted the question posed was “would you be willing to wait another year …?” rather than “would you choose to wait another year …?”. Had the question been left simply at the willingness then I would wholeheartedly show my support for whatever Jehovah has purposed. It was the additional consideration that my willingness should be prompted by the numerical argument that gave me pause for thought. (I refrained from clapping.)
P.S. Please comment and feel free to tell me I was just being a party-pooper. If my reasoning is off then as always I appreciate getting a different perspective. It may open up a wider discussion about the scope of the preaching work and the meaning of Matt 10:23, but I have in mind to create another article about that also.