[This article was contributed by Apollos]
The July 15th, 2013 Watchtower was littered with updates specifying what we used to believe, compared to a flurry of new understandings. Primarily these were focused on Matthew chapter 24, and everything built up to the key point that the men making up the current governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are the faithful and discreet slave that Jesus had in mind when delivering the words recorded in Matt 24:45-47.
Much of the buildup in the first of the series of articles served to readjust our understanding of Jesus’ “coming” and “arrival”. Previously the organization had interpreted most uses of this term as past events to fit with our 1914, 1918, 1919 doctrines. The adjustments on this – considered “new light” by most JWs – simply brought us into line with what most Christian denominations have understood the terms to mean for centuries, i.e. the future advent of the Lord at his second coming.
On page 7 paragraph 15 the following statement was made:
“In the part of the prophecy that is recorded at Matthew 24:29-25:46, Jesus focuses primarily on what will happen during the coming great tribulation.”
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins sits squarely in the middle of that passage, and yet “present truth” in 2013 was that the events of this parable were supposedly played out during the 1914-1919 period (see w04 3/1 pp.14-15 ‘The Faithful Slave’ Passes the Test!). Despite this incongruity no mention of this parable has been made at all until now.
With that background in mind one of the striking things about this week’s study is that it does not give even the slightest hint that this is a major adjustment, or that we used to believe something quite different. There is neither a footnote nor an endnote in sight to make any connection with our beliefs that were still officially current right up to the publishing of this magazine. From my recollection this method of presenting a major change in understanding is unprecedented. It would be sheer speculation to propose why this might be, but at the very least it indicates that the writers feel less pressure to note our previous doctrines, perhaps either because the readers a) don’t know them anyway, or b) don’t care.
The end result however is that yet another plug is pulled on the 1914-1919 time period. Previously, although our doctrines may have been founded on sand, there was at least some effort to make scripture fit with the idea that important prophetic things happened for Christians during those years. Now, as one text after another is removed, like some game of scriptural Jenga, there is a greater need to keep the tower of faith standing on the power of assertion alone.
The truth of the matter is that the above quote from the July 15th, 2013 Watchtower is made with the objective of confining all of Jesus’ words in the stated passage to a particular latter-days period. In this manner “the slave” of Matthew 24:45-47 can be likewise confined, rather than exist as a parable for all Christians in keeping with Jesus’ other “slave parables”.
It is important to understand that at one time the majority of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 & 25 were officially applied by the organization to 1914-1919. This includes the great tribulation, the coming of the Son of Man, the parable of the virgins, and the separating of the sheep and the goats.
The current study article is significant in that it removes the last vestige of a direct application of the passage to things that happened a century ago, and concedes that they are all future. This again brings us in line with what most Bible commentators have long concluded. Of course if we take this to the logical conclusion then the “faithful and discreet slave” parable remains conditional at this time, and while all Christians have the opportunity to feed others spiritually, the designation of “faithful and discreet” will only be decided by Jesus upon his future return. A comparison of the parallel account in Luke 12:41-48 makes this glaringly obvious.
Perhaps this is why it has taken almost two years to publish the new interpretation of the virgins parable. When you are playing Jenga you don’t want to rush things, and you especially don’t want to pull two bricks at the same time so late in the game.