[From ws15/07 p. 14 for Sep. 7-13]
A man comes to your town. He stands in the village square, and proclaims that soon death and destruction will rain down upon you and your fellow citizens. Next, he tells you how to escape. Sacrifices must be made, but if you all follow his instructions, you will be saved.
Would you listen? Would you obey? Would you be blessed?
Jesus was such a prophet. He foretold the utter destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and he gave precise instructions on how to escape. He said that there would come a time when an enemy would besiege the city and that would be the sign for his listeners to flee in great haste. He even told them specifically what not to do. (Luke 21:20; Mt 24:15-20) These were clear, concise instructions linked to an easily identifiable, highly visible event. Some listened and obeyed. Most did not, and died horribly.
However, Jesus didn’t expect people to put faith in his words simply because he said so. He established his credentials as a true prophet by performing many miraculous healings and even resurrecting the dead.
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not directly claim to be a prophet, yet they do explain Bible parables, visions, and signs in a way that constitutes prophetic interpretation. The meaning and chronology they apply to Bible prophecy constitutes prophecy in itself. So while they do not refer to themselves collectively as a prophet, they talk, the talk and walk, the walk. This week’s Watchtower study is just chock-full of speculative prophetic interpretations.
The Litmus Test for Prophets
Unlike Jesus, they do not perform miracles to establish their credentials. Still, all that the Samaritan woman needed to know that Jesus was a prophet was his ability to tell her things he could not otherwise have known. (John 4:17-19) Jesus record of prophetic accuracy is impeccable. What about the record of the Governing Body? In the 100-year history during which it claims to have served in the Christ-appointed capacity of Faithful Steward that dispenses spiritual food to the Lord’s slaves, have any of its prophetic interpretations come true? Would a century-long period of consistent prophetic re-entrenchment (or “refinements” as they like to refer to them) provide the basis for confidence in interpretations concerning how you should plan your future?
The litmus test the Bible provides for us to use to determine the validity of a prophet’s words is spelled out in the book of Deuteronomy.
“However, you may say in your heart: “How will we know that Jehovah has not spoken the word?” 22 When the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word is not fulfilled or does not come true, then Jehovah did not speak that word. The prophet spoke it presumptuously. You should not fear him.’” (De 18:21, 22)
Would you use an alarm clock that always malfunctioned and rang at the wrong time or failed to ring at all? What if it occasionally worked correctly? Would you use it then? It’s your alarm clock. It’s up to you whether you use it or not.
A Prophet Speaks
With the foregoing in mind, let us look at the prophetic statements and assumptions in this week’s study. We cannot prove them, because they have not happened. They might instill fear in us. Fear that if we don’t listen to what the prophet is telling us to do, we might die. But remember the words of God. When dealing with a false prophet, “you should not fear him.” (De 18:22)
Starting right off with paragraph 2, we have evidence of a recent failure.
“How can you possibly leave Jerusalem with so many troops surrounding it? Then, an amazing thing happens. Right before your very eyes, the Roman troops start to retreat! As foretold, their attack is being “cut short.” (Matt. 24:22)”
As the question for the paragraph shows, this happened in 66 C.E. So the days were cut short in 66 C.E.
However, we previously believed that the cutting short applied to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. which allowed some 97,000 Jews to survive.
“Then, in 70 C.E. General Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, came up against the city, surrounded it with a fortification of pointed stakes, as Jesus had foretold, and brought the inhabitants to a pitiable state of starvation. It appeared that, if the siege lasted much longer, “no flesh” inside the city would survive. But, as Jesus had prophesied concerning this “great tribulation,” the greatest Jerusalem had ever experienced, “unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days.”—Mark 13:19, 20.”
“Providentially, the siege lasted only 142 days. But even then, plague, pestilence and the sword devoured 1,100,000, leaving 97,000 survivors to suffer being sold into slavery or into gladiatorship in the Roman arena. Thus, Jehovah’s “chosen ones” had fled from the doomed city. On that account Jehovah did not have to prolong the time of distress, but could execute vengeance in a short time, sparing 97,000 persons, thus saving some ‘flesh.’” (w74 11/15 p. 683)
So the cutting short applied to 70 C.E., but now it applies to 66 C.E. We say hindsight is 20/20. Yet, if the Governing Body failed to understand the historical fulfillment of a prophecy, how can we trust them to properly interpret prophecies that are still future? Further, the previous application shows a total inability even to reason logically. Does it make sense to you to say that Jehovah was cutting short the days to save some flesh on account of the chosen ones when the chosen ones were no longer in the city?
From here on in, there are so many assumptions being made in this article that we will get bogged down if we tried to address each one in detail. Instead, we will list them, because the onus is on the prophet to back up his own words. Carefully observe to see whether the Governing Body does that by using supporting scriptures, or whether it just expects us to believe.
The Beginning of the Great Tribulation
Under this subtitle they allege that the great tribulation refers to the destruction of Babylon the great. The Bible does not say that, and we offer no proof to support it, therefore this is assumption number 1. It may be true. It may not be. We offer no proof, hence the label, “assumption”.
Next, paragraph 4 alleges that the wicked clergy of Christendom have prostituted themselves with the leaders of this wicked world, but that the “clean, virginlike anointed” Jehovah’s Witnesses have stood in “stark contrast” to such ones. The leaders with whom the clergy have prostituted themselves “give support to the United Nations, an organization pictured by the ‘scarlet-colored wild beast’” of Revelation.
How can the Governing Body claim to be part of these “clean, virginlike anointed” when they too have cavorted with the scarlet-colored wild beast? From 1992 to 2001 (when their involvement was revealed in the media), the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses under the direction of the Governing Body held membership in the United Nations as a non-governmental organization, or NGO. To become an NGO they had to – in writing – stipulate that they share the ideals of the UN charter, and demonstrate an interest in United Nations issues, as well as a commitment to conduct effective information programs about UN activities. When they were found out, they broke their connection to the UN, and then implemented a campaign of disinformation to minimize their involvement. We were disinclined to attribute outright deception to their actions until reading this careful and well-documented analysis. (View it by clicking this link.)
Will We Be Painted with the Same Brush?
Paragraph 5 quotes from Zechariah 13:4-6 to prophesy that during the destruction of Babylon the great “some of the clergy of Christendom will abandon their religious course and deny that they were ever a part of those false religions.” Assuming this application to be accurate (Assumption 2), we are confident that this will not be the case with the clergy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Elders, traveling overseers, and branch committee members will be spared this ignominy. Why? Because they are not part of false religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach only accurate Bible truth. Yet, how will these escape when all the nations are attacking religion worldwide? Paragraph 6 presumes to answer the question by applying Matthew 24:22. The belief is that there is a secondary application of this verse, meaning that the destruction of Babylon the great will be cut short in a similar way to the cutting short of the siege of Jerusalem in 66 C.E. Since the Bible does not state that there is a secondary application of Matthew 24:22, we must label this assumption number 3.
Is this interpretation even logical? In the first century, the chosen ones were in Jerusalem and had to physically flee. Are we suggesting that the chosen ones – anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses – are inside Babylon the great and will have to flee somehow when Jehovah “cuts short” the destruction of the harlot? We claim to have all fled from Babylon long ago and are now safely ensconced in the ark-like earthly organization of God. Why then does God have to cut short the days of Babylon’s destruction to allow us to “escape” from within her? And where in the extensive account of her destruction in Revelation is any mention made of a period when it is cut short?
A Time of Testing and Judgment
Paragraph 7 states that after the destruction of false religious organizations – excluding Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course – “God’s people will flee to the refuge that Jehovah provides.” We don’t know what that refuge is, and no Scripture is provided to support this statement. In fact, when foretelling the sign of his presence and of the end of the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus makes no mention whatsoever of any refuge to which his people will have to flee, either literally or figuratively. We must label this assumption number 4. This is a particularly dangerous interpretation, because when paired with what we said in the November 15, 2013 Watchtower, it sets the stage for disaster.
“At that time, the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.” (w13 11/15 p. 20 par. 17)
When a prophet with a 100-year-long history of failed predictions – the very definition of ‘false prophet’ – expects you to obey his command unconditionally, even when that command appears unsound, beware!
Paragraph 8 explains our belief that following the destruction of Babylon the Great “we will be the only ones following the example of the ancient prophet Daniel by continuing to worship our God no matter what.” Only Jehovah’s Witness constitute “my people” who will “get out of her” and escape her destruction: Assumption number 5.
Without breaking stride, we move into assumption 6. “No doubt God’s people will proclaim a hard-hitting judgment message.” This little prophetic gem springs from our interpretation of Rev. 16:21. Our message will be the “hailstones from heaven.” There is no scriptural precedent for this fanciful interpretation. Certainly, the Christians in Jerusalem were more concerned with fleeing than from going door to door to proclaim, “We told you so but now it’s too late.”
The idea of a final judgment message when it is too late to repent and convert is not new among Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve often wondered where the idea originated. In our hayday of types and antitypes, we taught that the final march and trumpet blast that brought down the walls of Jericho prefigured this condemnatory proclamation. It certainly seems like a very human reaction to decades of being mistreated, disdained, and dismissed as weirdos. A base human desire to justify oneself, to finally show the world that we were right all along and they were wrong, would be satisfied by such a work. Yet, would Jehovah have us engage in a work that is self-serving and contrary to the Christan spirit of love. (1Co 13:4-7) Jesus wept at contemplating what was coming upon Jerusalem. He took no joy in it. (Luke 19:41, 42)
Further to this, is there any precedent for such a work? (Remember, the Bible doesn’t explicitly state what the hailstones represent, nor exactly when they will fall.) When the flood came, when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed in flame, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, there was not “hard-hitting judgment message” proclaimed to the people. They knew destruction was imminent when the rain fell, when burning sulfur rained down, when the Roman armies surrounded the city. Similarly, the sign of the Son of man in the heavens will be notification enough. Or at least, one would think. However, the Governing Body would have us believe that a special edition of The Watchtower is needed before the real teeth gnashing can start.
Paragraph 10 brings in Ezekiel’s prophecy which speaks of Gog and Magog encircling the dwelling of the holy ones. This, we say, occurs after Babylon the great is destroyed. Now the only other reference to Gog and Magog in the Bible shows a fulfillment after the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign have ended:
“. . .Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison, 8 and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Maʹgog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.. . .” (Re 20:7-9)
Do you notice the similarities between Ezekiel’s account and John’s? Good, because that seems to have escaped the notice of the Governing Body. Why do we promote an interpretation for which there is no scriptural support? If you’ve ever had to lie about something, you know how one lie must give birth to more, for one has to lie to support the original lies. Soon, a complete structure of lies comes into being, like a massive house of cards.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the organization – not just the individuals in it, but the organization itself – will survive. So now you have an organization with its organizational structure right up to the Governing Body, standing alone in the world while all other religious organizations have been laid waste. It makes no sense that the nations would be happy about that. They would want to come after us, would they not? So applying the attack of Gog of Magog makes logical sense, if…IF…you accept the premise of the survival of the organization. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t teach this. But then, you ask, how will Christians survive? Jesus already explained that in Mt. 24:31.
As if to catch its breath, the article takes a step back from speculation in paragraph 11. However, the respite is brief. We are right back into it in paragraph 12.
“According to Matthew, Jesus finished giving the composite sign with the parable of the sheep and the goats…”
So is it a parable, or is it a sign? All the other “signs”, even the things we misinterpret as signs like the wars, famines, and earthquakes, are real things, not parables or metaphors. Our prophetic application of Scripture grows ever more fuzzy.
Shining Brightly in the Kingdom
Paragraph 15 states that Jesus will come invisibly. We know this because the paragraph says: “the Bible clearly shows that ‘the sign of the Son of Man’ will appear in heaven and that Jesus will come ‘on the clouds of the heaven.’” (Matt. 24:30) Both of these inspections imply invisibility.”
I’m wondering if reading this has left you as speechless as it has me.
Behold the full text of Matthew 24:30.
“. . .Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt 24:30)
How do expressions like “will appear” and “they will see” imply invisibility?
Daniel sure had no problem seeing the Son of Man coming with the clouds of the heavens.
“I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming; and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One.” (Da 7:13)
Could the Apostle John have said it more clearly?
Revelation 1:7 says, “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him.”
If I tell you,”Look the wind is blowing the clouds toward us, and behold there is a hot air balloon coming with the clouds!” Would you turn to me, and say, “But Meleti, how can you see the balloon, being that what you’ve just said implies invisibility?”
For the sake of continuity, we can number this assumption 7, but admittedly, we are really stretching the meaning of the word, since an assumption is normally based on some degree of probability, while this interpretation requires us to surrender up our knowledge of the English language.
In paragraph 16 we make another assumption (8) by stating that the words in 2 Chronicles 20:17 have a secondary fulfillment with regard to those who are being attacked by Gog of Magog – an assumption based on another assumption. This will require Jesus to step in to defend his sheep. These are the sheep Jesus fails to mention when assuring his chosen ones they will be gathered together from the four corners of the earth. Odd that after giving such explicit instructions to the Christians in Jerusalem and after assuring his chosen ones that their protection at the end of the conclusion of things lies in the hands of the angels, he completely overlooks reassuring eight million others as to what they must do, or how they will be safeguarded. Fortunately, we have the Governing Body to carefully piece together all the types, antitypes, and dual fulfillments for our peace and security. And we can rest assured that despite all their past failures, Jehovah will inspire them to tell us just what we need to do when the time comes. This is surely a safe assumption. Let’s call it number 10; the number for human perfection.
Reviewing the assumptions, we have: 1) the great tribulation begins with the destruction of Babylon the Great which 2) will cause the clergy (not us) to deny any affiliation with their previous paramours, but at some point 3) the destruction of Babylon the Great will be cut short so the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses can escape destruction, and thereby 4) flee to some yet-to-be specified refuge which God will provide, making 5) Jehovah’s Witnesses the only religion to be saved. Following the conclusion of the destruction of all false religion (again, not us), 6) we will proclaim a judgment message on the world; then, 7) Jesus will appear in the heavens invisibly. Next, 8) Satan or Gog will attack Jehovah’s Witnesses. Finally, we have assumption 9) as a kind of umbrella over all this, because somewhere during these events the Governing Body will tell us everything we need to do to be saved. Absolute and unquestioning obedience will be required however.
Perhaps after studying this week’s Watchtower, we might just want to read Isaiah 9:14-17. Perhaps, just maybe, there is something relevant there we can ponder on.