Part 1 of this series appeared in the October 1, 2014 Watchtower. If you have not read our post commenting on that first article, it might be beneficial to do so before proceeding with this one.
The November issue under discussion here reviews the math by which we arrive at 1914 as the start of Christ’s presence. Let’s employ some critical thinking as we examine it to see if there is a scriptural basis for the belief.
On page 8, second column, Cameron says, “in the larger fulfillment of the prophecy, God’s rulership would in a way be interrupted for a period of seven times.” As discussed in our previous post, there is no proof there is any secondary fulfillment. This is a huge assumption. However, even granting that assumption requires us to make yet another assumption: that the seven times are not figurative nor indefinite, and yet are not a literal seven years either. Instead, we have to assume each time refers to a 360-day symbolic year and that a-day-for-a-year calculation can be applied based on unrelated prophecies that were not written until almost 700 years later. Additionally, Cameron says that the fulfillment involves an unspecified interruption in God’s rulership. Notice he says, that it would be interrupted “in a way”. Who makes that determination? Certainly not the Bible. This is all the result of human deductive reasoning.
Cameron next says, “As we saw, the seven times began when Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.” Cameron uses the phrase “as we saw” to indicate he’s referring to a previously established fact. However, in the first article no scriptural nor historical proof was given to link the seven times to the destruction of Jerusalem, nor to link that destruction to 607 B.C.E. So we have to make two more assumptions before we can proceed.
If we are to accept that the seven times begins with the interruption of God’s rulership over Israel (not over the “kingdom of mankind” as Daniel states in 4:17, 25—yet another leap of logic), then when did that rulership cease? Was it when the king of Babylon turned the king of Israel into a vassal king? Or was it when Jerusalem was destroyed? The Bible doesn’t say which. Assuming the latter, then when did that occur? Again, the Bible doesn’t say. Secular history says Babylon was conquered in 539 B.C.E. and Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.E. So which year do we accept and which do we reject. We assume the historians are right about 539, but wrong about 587. What is our basis for rejecting one date and accepting the other? We could just as easily accept 587 and count forward 70 years, but we don’t.
As you can see, we are already building our doctrine on quite a number of unprovable assumptions.
On page 9, Cameron states that “the seven literal times must be much longer than seven literal years”. To bolster this point, he then states, “Besides, as we considered before, centuries later when Jesus was here on earth, he indicated that the seven times had not yet ended.” Now we are putting words in Jesus’ mouth. He said no such thing, nor did he imply it. What Cameron is referring to are Jesus’ words regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, not Daniel’s day.
“and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
The importance of this single scripture in the fabric of this doctrine can hardly be overstated. Simply put, no time element is possible without Luke 21:24. The entire secondary fulfillment hypothesis crumbles without it. As you are about to see, trying to tie in his words about the trampling of Jerusalem causes the assumption count to skyrocket.
First, we have to assume that even though he uses a simple future tense (“will be trampled”) he really meant to use something more complex to show a past and yet continuous future action; something like, “has been and will continue to be trampled”.
Second, we have to assume that the trampling he’s referring to has nothing to do with the destruction of the city he’s just foretold. The city’s destruction is but a footnote in the larger fulfillment which make the trampling refer to the Jewish nation not having God as king anymore.
Third, we have to assume that the appointed times of the nations began with Jerusalem losing her self-rule under God. These “gentile times” could well have begun with Adam’s sin, or with Nimrod’s rebellion (“a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah” – Ge 10:9, 10 NWT) when he set up the first kingdom to oppose God. Or they could have begun with the enslavement of the Jews under Pharaoh for all we know. The Scriptures just don’t say. The only use of the phrase in the entire Bible is found in Jesus’ words recorded at Luke 21:24. Not much to go on, yet we’ve built a life-altering interpretation based on it. Simply put, the Bible doesn’t say when the Gentile times began nor when they will end. So our third assumption is really two. Call it 3a and 3b.
Fourth, We have to assume that Jehovah’s kingship over Israel ended when it was destroyed and not years earlier when the King of Babylon conquered it and appointed a king to serve under him as a vassal.
Fifth, we have to assume that the trampling stopped being upon the nation of Israel at some point and started to apply to the Christian congregation. This is a particularly problematic point, because Jesus indicates at Luke 21:24 that the trampling was on the actual city of Jerusalem and by extension nation of Israel when it was being destroyed and that occurred in 70 C.E. The Christian congregation had been in existence by that time for almost 40 years. So the congregation wasn’t being trampled by not having a king over it. In fact, our own theology accepts that it did have a king over it. We teach that Jesus had been ruling as king over the congregation since 33 C.E. So at some point after 70 C.E., the literal nation of Israel stopped being trampled on by the nations and the Christian congregation began to be. That means the God’s rulership over the congregation ceased at that time. When exactly did that happen?
Sixth: 1914 marks the end of the gentile times. This is an assumption because there is no proof it happened; no visible evidence that the status of the nations changed in any Scripturally significant way. The nations continued to govern after 1914 just as they had before it. To paraphrase Brother Russell, ‘their kings are still having their day.’ We say the gentile times ended because that’s when Jesus started ruling from heaven. If so, then were is the evidence of that rule? This takes us to the final assumption needed to support the use of Luke 21:24 in our theology.
Seventh: If the trampling represents the end of domination by the nations over the congregation of Christ, then what changed in 1914? Jesus had already been ruling over the Christian congregation since 33 C.E. Our own publications support that belief. Prior to that Christianity was often abused and persecuted, but continued to conquer. After that it continued to be abused and persecuted but continued to conquer. So we say that what was set up in 1914 was the Messianic Kingdom. But where’s the proof? If we don’t want to be accused of making things up, we need to provide proof of some change, but there is no change between 1913 and 1914 to indicate an ending of the trampling. In fact, our own publications apply the 2-witness prophecy of Revelation 11:1-4 to the time period from 1914 to 1918 indicating that the trampling continued past the cutoff date.
An Assumption Conundrum: Teaching that the Messianic Kingdom began in 1914 raises a significant conundrum for us. The Messiah is to rule for 1,000 years. So we are already a century into his rule. That leaves only 900 years to go. This rule is to bring peace, yet the first 100 years of it have been the bloodiest in history. So either he didn’t start ruling in 1914, or he did and the Bible was wrong. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we don’t use the terms “1914” and “Messianic Kingdom” in the same sentence like we used to. Now we talk about 1914 and God’s Kingdom, a much more general term.
So there is no visible nor scriptural evidence that Jesus began reigning invisibly in the heavens in 1914. There is no evidence that the appointed times of the nations ended in that year. There is no evidence that Jerusalem—literal or symbolic—stopped being trampled in that year.
What do we have to say about that?
Reasoning from the Scriptures states:
As Jesus showed in his prophecy pointing to the conclusion of the system of things, Jerusalem would be “trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations” were fulfilled. (Luke 21:24) “Jerusalem” represented the Kingdom of God because its kings were said to sit on “the throne of the kingship of Jehovah.” (1 Chron. 28:4, 5; Matt. 5:34, 35) So, the Gentile governments, represented by wild beasts, would ‘trample’ on the right of God’s Kingdom to direct human affairs and would themselves hold sway under Satan’s control.—Compare Luke 4:5, 6. (rs p. 96 Dates)
Is there evidence—any evidence whatsoever—that since 1914 the nations have stopped “directing human affairs” and are “no longer trampling on the right of God’s Kingdom to direct human affairs”?
How many arms and legs do we have to lop off this black knight before he admits defeat and let’s us pass?
Given the lack of proof that the trampling upon which everything hinges cannot be shown to have ended, our attention is redistracted by Cameron in a way all witnesses are used to. He focuses on the fact that 1914 was the year in which the first world war started. Is that prophetically significant? He feels so, for he says on page 9, column 2, “Concerning the time when he would start ruling in heaven, Jesus said: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.””
Actually, Jesus didn’t say that his presence would be marked by these things. This is yet another misinterpretation. When asked for a sign to indicate when he would start ruling and the end would come, he told his followers not to be misled into believing that wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences were signs of his arrival. He started off by warning us not to believe such things were actual signs. Read the following parallel accounts carefully. Is Jesus saying, “When you see these things, know I am enthroned as king invisibly in the heavens and that the last days have started”?
“4 In answer Jesus said to them: “Look out that nobody misleads you, 5 for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for these things must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Mt 24:4-6)
“. . .So Jesus began to tell them: “Look out that nobody misleads you. 6 Many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and will mislead many. 7 Moreover, when you hear of wars and reports of wars, do not be alarmed; these things must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Mr 13:5-7)
“. . .“Then, too, if anyone says to you, ‘See! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘See! There he is,’ do not believe it. 22 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the chosen ones. 23 You, then, watch out. I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mr 13:21-23)
“. . .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 is near.’ Do not go after them. 9 Furthermore, when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified. For these things must take place first, but the end will not occur immediately.”” (Lu 21:8, 9)
Does Jesus even mention the last days in these three parallel accounts? Does he say his presence will be invisible? In fact, he says quite the opposite in Mt 24:30.
Now consider this final passage.
“. . .Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will perform great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 Look! I have forewarned you. 26 Therefore, if people say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out of the east and shines over to the west, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 28 Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Mt 24:23-28)
Verse 26 speaks of those preaching an invisible, secret, hidden presence. He’s in the inner rooms or he’s out in the wilderness. Both are hidden from the populous, and known only to those “in the know”. Jesus specifically warns us not to believe such tales. He then tells us how his presence will be manifested.
We have all seen cloud-to-cloud lightning. It can be observed by everyone, even people indoors. The light from the flash penetrates everywhere. It requires no explanation, nor interpretation. Everyone knows that lightning has flashed. Even the animals are aware of it. That is the illustration Jesus used to tell us how the presence of the Son of man would manifest itself. Now, did anything like that occur in 1914? Anything??
As the article closes, Jon says: “I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.” Then he asks, “…why this is so complicated.”
The reason why it is so complicated is that we are ignoring or twisting plainly stated truths to make our pet theory appear to work.
Jesus said we have no right to know about the dates that God has put in his own jurisdiction. (Acts 1:6,7) We say, not so, we can know because we have a special exemption. Daniel 12:4 foretells that we will “rove about” and the “true knowledge” will become abundant. Included in that “true knowledge” is knowledge of the dates when things will happen. Again, another presumptive interpretation twisted to suit our needs. The fact we’ve been unfailingly wrong about all our prophetic dates proves that the Acts 1:7 hasn’t lost any of its force. It still does not belong to us to know the times and the seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.
Jesus said not to read signs into wars and natural catastrophes, but we do just that anyway.
Jesus said not to believe people who say Jesus has arrived in some hidden or concealed manner, but we are being lead by such people. (Mt. 24:23-27)
Jesus said his presence would be visible to everyone, even the whole world; so we say, that really only applies to us, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone else is blind to the lightning that flashed in 1914 (Mt. 24:28, 30)
The fact is, our 1914 teaching isn’t complicated, it is just ugly. It has none of the simple charm and scriptural harmony we’ve come to expect from Bible prophecy. It involves so many assumptions and requires us to reinterpret so many plainly stated scriptural truths that it is amazing it has survived until now. It is a lie that misrepresents Jesus’ clear teaching and Jehovah’s purpose. A lie that is being used to usurp the authority of our Lord by supporting the idea that our leadership has been divinely appointed to rule over us.
It is a teaching whose time has long passed. It staggers on, like a hundred-year-old man, supported by the twin canes of indoctrination and intimidation, but soon those pegs will be knocked out from under it. What then for those of us who have put faith in men?