“People in glass houses should not throw stones.”
Troilus and Criseyede – Geoffrey Chaucer (1385)

“…if you are convinced that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children…therefore you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself?…You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:19-24 NET Bible)

This part on the Friday afternoon session uses Luke 11:52 to open the discussion, showing how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day shut up the kingdom by denying their flocks the knowledge of God. The speaker then stated that those Pharisees were part of Babylon the Great.

Quoting Revelation 18:24 the speaker showed how Babylon the Great has been blood-guilty due to all the wars it has promoted throughout history. However, please note that the verse begins by condemning her for the blood of prophets and holy ones. This element was not mentioned in the talk. In most countries nowadays, Babylon the great is not legally able to murder holy ones and prophets, but she can and does persecute them. Therefore, any religion that persecutes, bans, and shuns faithful individuals who try to proclaim Bible truths to set matters straight, could qualify for membership in Babylon the Great. For some, cutting them off from friends and family has resulted in times of depression so intense that they have committed suicide. Worse, however, would be the loss of faith, for physical death is temporary, but spiritual death may be permanent. Those leaders of Babylon the Great feel no compunction in condemning the guiltless ones who challenge their authority and by so doing run the risk of having a mill stone tied around their neck before being chucked into the deep, blue sea. (Mt 18:6; Mk 9:42; Lu 17:2)

The next claim the speaker made was that the leaders of false religion are “self-serving hypocrites who shut up the kingdom to people everywhere”. Six scriptures are then read to show how Jesus’ words apply as much today as they did back then.

Starting with Matthew 23:2, he read: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses.” He then said “You notice there? They claim to represent God, sitting in the seat of Moses and yet they shamelessly hide his very name.” It then goes on to denounce the Vatican for a recent 2008 edict requiring that God’s name be stricken from all written documents and verbal sermons. Abhorrent? Yes. But what does that have to do with what Jesus is denouncing in Matthew 23:2? We are missing the proper application of this scripture. He condemns those who presume to sit in the seat of Moses and thereby claim to represent God.

If you do a search on “Korah” in the Watchtower library program, you’ll find reference to him made in Watchtower articles in almost every year from the start of the 21st Century, often multiple articles in a given year. Korah opposed Moses who was indisputably God’s appointed channel of communication at that time. (w12 10/15 p. 13; w11 9/15 p. 27; w02 1/15 p.29; w02 3/15 p. 16; w02 8/1 p. 10; w00 6/15 p. 13; w00 8/1 p. 10) Jesus Christ is the greater Moses, so the example still fits—even more so. However, that is not our point. The parallel is drawn time and again that the action of Korah is paralleled by modern-day apostates who challenge God’s modern-day appointed channel of communication, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is incumbent on the discerning listener to ask him or herself if our leadership has not likewise seated themselves in the seat of Moses. The determination must lie in their actions. Like those ancient Pharisees, are they shutting up the kingdom? We will see.

Moving now to Matthew 23:4, the speaker continued: “They bind up heavy loads and put them on the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” He then applied those words to the Catholic church’s policy of paying for indulgences. Again, a reprehensible practice, but there are so many ways that this verse can be applied. We also tie heavy burdens on the backs of our membership. We have been guilty of stigmatizing higher education while at the same time using dedicated funds to send Bethelites to University to become lawyers or other professionals. Those who constantly extol self-abnegation in the pioneer service, live in beautiful surroundings with their every need taken care of by a cadre of volunteer servants. They do not wash their own clothes, cook their own meals, nor clean their own apartments. They are, quite literally, the Lords of the manor.

He then read Matthew 23:5-10. Verse five was applied to the religious garb that the Catholic Church is notable for. Of course, most fundamentalist religions are also considered by us to be part of Babylon the great despite the fact that they dress exactly as we do. Versus 8 to 10 were used to denounce the practice of mainstream religions of assuming pretentious, high-sounding titles. Specifically we are told not to be called leader, because one is our leader, the Christ. The implication is that unlike other religions, we do not give in to this. Yet, think, if you call yourself a governor, is that not just another name for leader; one who governs?  It is not the Governing Body our leadership? Is not a Governing Body member, a leadership member?

“You’ve got to support his anointed brothers, accepting their leadership because God is with them.’” (w12 4/15 p. 18 Seventy Years of Holding On to the Skirt of a Jew)

“Our recognizing Christ’s leadership involves submission to his “brothers.” (w11 5/15 p. 26 Following Christ, the Perfect Leader)

“In a symbolic way, Christians with an earthly hope today walk behind the anointed slave class and its Governing Body, following their leadership.” (w08 1/15 p. 26 par. 6 Counted Worthy to Be Guided to Fountains of Waters of Life)

We may not refer to anyone in the Organization as “Leader”, but we are merely obeying the letter of Jesus’ words. The spirit behind them is violated every time we refer to “a member of the Governing Body” in the near reverential overtones we’ve all become accustomed to hearing of late.

Using Matthew 23:13 the speaker states that Babylon the great is a leading factor for the spread of atheism around the globe because of three practices: 1) false religion’s hypocritical involvement wars, 2) their constant scandals in covering up for pedophile priests, and 3) their continual appeal for funds.

The record of Jehovah’s Witnesses with regard to involvement in wartime killing is pretty clean. However, our record with regard to covering up the sin of pedophilia has given us membership to a very undesirable false religious club. At one point in time, we could have claimed two out of three on this score. However, our latest policy to grab at the funds held by individual congregations while urging them to make additional firm monthly commitments means that at best we can claim a one out of three score. Is that enough to keep us out of Babylon the great? Not according to the principle found at James 2:10, 11.

Next, the speaker read Matthew 23:23, 24. The claim is made that false religion (i.e., Babylon the great) is guilty of failing to teach its flock how true Christians should live. False religions now promote adultery, homosexuality, same sex marriage, etc. Of course, false religion has been around for centuries, but it is only in the past few years that they have permitted such attitudes, yet they have always been false. Additionally, not all the religions that we would lump into Babylon the great tolerate these things. The scribes and the Pharisees were not known for permissive attitudes. Quite the contrary. A careful re-reading of these two verses will indicate that Jesus was referring to a too-strict application of the law—not a too-permissive one—while disregarding the more important qualities of justice mercy and faithfulness. We are misapplying the Scripture to try to make ourselves look good while condemning the rest. Are we not guilty of injustice and a lack of mercy through our many abuses of the disfellowshipping arrangement which is often used to maintain doctrinal purity in support of the interpretation of our leadership? We have imitated the Pharisees that Jesus here condemns by also inventing our own laws and then forcing others to apply them. We have our own equivalent of the tenth of the dill and the cumin in our requirement to report even in ¼ hour increments, to cite just one example.

Using Matthew 23:34, the speaker showed how Babylon the Great has persecuted our brothers. However, a quick internet search shows that we are not the only Christian religion that is persecuted. When other smaller Christian denominations are persecuted by the bigger denominations, does that mean they are no longer part of Babylon the Great as we allege? Jesus is referring to the Pharisees persecuting and killing prophets, wise men, and public instructors. These individuals are sent to them by Christ. So what we need to look for in applying Jesus’ words is not one organization persecuting another, but rather the leadership of a religion persecuting individuals who are speaking the truth as given to them by Jesus Christ. What would happen if you were to stand up in your congregation and show from Scripture that the teaching of 1914 as Christ’s invisible presence is flawed, or that the other sheep are nowhere shown in the Bible to represent a class with an earthly resurrection hope? Would you be listened to and respected or would you be persecuted?

The talk closes with an exhortation to all to zealously preach while time remains so as to help those still left in Babylon the Great to get out of her before it is too late.

Before we close, let’s return to Matthew 23:13 which is the theme text for this convention discourse. The claim is that Babylon the Great, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, shuts up the kingdom of the heavens. The majority of religions in Christendom teach that all good people go to heaven. It is true that most of them do not properly represent the kingdom of God to their flock. They also teach false religious doctrines and practices which make it very difficult for people to qualify for the kingdom of the heavens since everyone liking and carrying on a lie is to be excluded. (Re 22:15) Therefore, if we accept this as a qualification for membership in the Babylon the Great club, we must examine ourselves. While throwing rocks at other religions, are we living in a glass house? We consider ourselves as “a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children”. Nevertheless are we who presume to teach others, not willing to teach ourselves? (Ro 2:19-24)

We teach that only a small remnant of 144,000 remaining on earth will go to heaven. That means that 99.9% of all the Jehovah’s Witnesses on earth today are excluded from the kingdom of the heavens. The Bible does not teach this. It is speculation based on false assumptions and has never been proven scripturally since it was introduced in 1935 by J.F. Rutherford. If the other religions of Christendom who teach that all good people go to heaven are guilty of shutting up the Kingdom of the heavens, how much more so guilty are we. For we deny our members even a chance at the hope of attaining to the reward that Christ freely extended to all his followers.

It is appalling that we have the unmitigated gall to stand up in public before a worldwide audience of millions and condemn all other Christian religions, when truly, in the category of “shutting up the kingdom”, we win first prize.