In this post, i’d like to offer some commentary on a Watchtower article that explains their self-proclaimed “overeagerness” as it relates to the predicting of “the time of the end.” But more importantly, i’d like to display a balanced view of how followers of Christ should seek God’s Kingdom as it relates to Christ parousia.
*** w84 12/1 p. 17 par. 12 Keep Ready! ***
When the enthroned Lord Jesus inspected his household in 1919, he found the group of Christians associated with the Watchtower magazine loyally striving to “keep on the watch” with the help of spiritual “food at the proper time.” Until this very day, that “slave” class has faithfully continued to provide spiritual food to enable the Master’s “domestics” and their companions to “keep looking, keep awake.”—Mark 13:33.
Here we have the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim to “faithfulness” to the exclusion of all other religious groups per Jesus’ inspection in 1919. This matter cannot be overstated given the fact that it is Jesus Christ himself who made the appointment, rather than a self-proclaimed one. Therefore, no one can be blamed for seeking to test this organization in light of these claims; especially when it is the claim of Jesus Christ himself. Has the Watchtower been faithful in producing “spiritual food” that passes the inspection of Jesus Christ? One can only imagine the standards that the Son of God would implement in inspecting a particular religious group for faithfulness and dispensing “spiritual food at the proper time”; surely a stricter set of standards than what I could come up with.
*** w84 12/1 p. 18 par. 13 Keep Ready! ***
It is easy for the established churches of Christendom and other people to criticize Jehovah’s Witnesses because their publications have, at times, stated that certain things could take place on certain dates. But is not such line of action in harmony with Christ’s injunction to “keep on the watch”? (Mark 13:37)
This is an interesting claim, given the statements made just one sentence prior. On one hand, they have the highest possible standard set for themselves with the divine approval of Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, they can be excused for setting false dates for the end of the world? While it is true that Jesus commanded His followers in the first century to “keep on the watch,” is it also true that they set specific dates for “the time of the end?” This is quite confusing because The Watchtower has, on several occasions, criticized others for doing precisely what they have commended themselves for doing:
*** g93 3/22 p. 3 Why So Many False Alarms? ***
THE story is told of a boy who watched the sheep of the villagers. To stir up a bit of excitement, one day he cried out, “Wolf! Wolf!” when there was no wolf. The villagers rushed out with clubs to drive off the wolf, only to find that there was none. It was such great fun that later on the boy repeated his cry. Again the villagers rushed out with their clubs, only to discover that it was another false alarm. After that a wolf did come, and the boy sounded the warning, “Wolf! Wolf!” but the villagers dismissed his cry as another false alarm. They had been fooled too often.
So it has become with those who proclaim the end of the world. Down through the centuries since Jesus’ day, so many unfulfilled predictions have been made that many no longer take them seriously.
***g68 10/8 p. 23 ‘A Time to ‘Lift up your head’ in confident hope”***
True, there have been those in times past who predicted an “end to the world,” even announcing a specific date. Some have gathered groups of people with them and fled to the hills or withdrawn into their houses waiting for the end. Yet, nothing happened. The “end” did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing?
Missing was the full measure of evidence required in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Missing from such people were God’s truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them.
Is this a double standard that the Watchtower has set for themselves? It would seem that when they proclaim a false date, it is to be commended for “keeping on the watch” in harmony with Christ’s words. But when someone else does it, they are “falsely prophesying” and “no one should take seriously.”
Since it is Jesus’ words that should hold the most value to His followers, what does He say about those who predict events that don’t come to pass?
“See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.”(Luke 21:8)
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
If Jesus warns against those who claim that “the time is near,” how could it be that He appointed and approved of a group who not only presents a double standard, but has emphatically predicted the time to be near (with an exact date in mind) on more than one occasion?
On the other hand, have Christendom’s churches encouraged Christian watchfulness by teaching that the Kingdom is “the ruling of God in our hearts”? Have they not, rather, encouraged spiritual sluggishness by considering expectation of “the end” to be “meaningless” or “an insignificant myth”? Have apostates who claim that “the last days” began at Pentecost and cover the entire Christian Era promoted Christian alertness? Have they not, rather, induced spiritual sleepiness?
Actually, a large portion of “Christendom” has held a much louder and more prominent voice in proclaiming “the end is near” than what Jehovah’s Witnesses have done. A sales count on books like The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey and The Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye proves just how widespread this is amongst Christendom. Even in 1984 when this article was published, “Christendom” had already bought into the “end times” hysteria. So who exactly is The Watchtower criticizing here?
*** w84 12/1 p. 18 par. 14 Keep Ready! ***
14 True, some expectations that appeared to be backed up by Bible chronology did not materialize at the anticipated time. But is it not far preferable to make some mistakes because of overeagerness to see God’s purposes accomplished than to be spiritually asleep as to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy?
I’m not so sure about that. The Bible has some very stern words towards those who make false predictions in God’s name that aren’t said of those who are “spiritually asleep”:
“‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which YHWH has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of YHWH, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which YHWH has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”(Deuteronomy 18:20–22)
And just to clear up any doubt as to who these words could be qualified to:
*** rs p. 132 False Prophets ***
Definition: Individuals and organizations proclaiming messages that they attribute to a superhuman source but that do not originate with the true God and are not in harmony with his revealed will.
***w/30 5/15 p. 155***
The difference between a true and false prophet is that the one is speaking the word of the Lord and the other is speaking his own dreams and guesses…The true prophet of God today will be telling forth what the Bible teaches, and those things that the Bible tells us are soon to come to pass. He will not be sounding forth man-made theories or guesses, either his own or those of others…This text proves again that those men who foretell things out of harmony with the Bible statements are false prophets.
In light of these claims, is the Watchtower being inconsistent when they claim the following:
1. Making false prediction where “certain things happened on certain dates” is “in line with Christ’s injunction to ‘keep on the watch'”
2. Those who “announce a specific date” of “the end of the world” that “did not come…are guilty of false prophecying.”
To back up these claims, the Watchtower provides some biblical examples that are to serve as parallels to their setting dates:
*** w84 12/1 pp. 18-19 pars. 14-15 Keep Ready! ***
Did not Moses make a 40-year miscalculation in trying to act ahead of time to remove Israel’s affliction? (Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6, 17, 23, 25, 30, 34) Were not Christ’s apostles overanxious to see the Kingdom established, not to speak of their complete misunderstanding as to what the Kingdom really is? (Acts 1:6; compare Luke 19:11; 24:21.) Were not the anointed Christians in Thessalonica impatient to see “the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the day of Jehovah”?—2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2.
15 There is nothing basically unscriptural in using chronology in efforts to learn “the appointed time” for the fulfillment of God’s purposes. (Habakkuk 2:3) Daniel calculated when Jerusalem’s devastation was due to end. (Daniel 9:1, 2) The first-century faithful Jewish remnant were in expectation of the coming of the Messiah because they calculated the end of a time, based on prophecy. (Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:15) Late 19th-century and early 20th-century Christians were enabled to live in expectation of God’s Kingdom rule well before 1914 because they calculated when “the appointed times of the nations” were due to end. (Luke 21:24; Daniel 4:16, 17) It was, therefore, understandable why efforts were made to use other Biblical time indications to try to find out when the long-awaited hopes might become a reality. Faithful servants of Jehovah in the past cried out: “How long, O Jehovah?”—Isaiah 6:11; Psalm 74:10; 94:3.
It is encouraged to look up each one of these biblical references and consider whether these are an accurate parallel to the “end of the world” predictions that the Watchtower has made as “God’s channel of communication”:
“We see no reason for changing the figures—nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the View presented in the Watch Tower of Jan. 15, ’92. We advise that it be read again.” –Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1894 p. 226
“Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church member by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of “Christianity.” –The Boiling Caldron p. 485
“Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection.” –Millions Now Living will Never Die 1920, p. 90
*** kj chap. 12 pp. 216-217 pars. 9-11 “Until He Comes Who Has the Legal Right” ***
Shortly, within our twentieth century, the “battle in the day of Jehovah” will begin against the modern antitype of Jerusalem, Christendom.
Hopefully it can be seen that there is a vast difference between the miscalculation of a chronology and predicting something in God’s name that doesn’t come to pass (Deut. 18:20-22). Even the Watchtower’s own writings reveal this. But their statement, “There is nothing basically unscriptural in using chronology in efforts to learn ‘the appointed time’ for the fulfillment of God’s purposes” reveals ignorance on their part or an unwillingness to apply their own standards to themselves.
*** w84 12/1 p. 19 pars. 16-18 Keep Ready! ***
16 Since Jesus clearly stated that no man could know “that day” or “the hour” when the Father will order his son to ‘come’ against Satan’s wicked system of things, some may ask: ‘Why is it so urgent to live in expectation of the end?’ It is urgent because practically in the same breath, Jesus added: “Keep looking, keep awake . . . keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:32-35) The “sign” of Jesus’ parousia has been in evidence since 1914. We now await “the sign of the Son of man,” when he ‘comes’ as Jehovah’s Executioner.
17 When Jesus gave the first-century Judean Christians a sign whereby they would know that the time had come to flee from Jerusalem, he insisted on the need to act immediately. (Luke 21:20-23) Why all the urgency, since nearly four years elapsed from the appearing of the sign in 66 C.E. and the actual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.? Because Jesus knew that if they delayed, they would keep putting off their flight and eventually be caught by the Roman armies.
18 Similarly today, it would be highly dangerous for Christians to rationalize about the urgency of our times and adopt a “cruising speed” attitude that reflects doubt about the nearness of the end.
Of course it would be unbiblical for Christians to adopt a “cruising speed” attitude towards the day when Christ will return. The problem with the Watchtower is that they have adopted a completely unbalanced perspective towards end times chronologies and predictions to the point of justifying it, whereas the true follower of Christ lives each day with the realization that the end could come; not in overeagerness, but with balance. Such swaying could lead to some very serious consequences that the Watchtower has yet to take responsibility for. The words of the Lord Jesus are quite clear towards those who cause such stumbling:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
One who associates themselves with such an organization would do well to ask themselves who their loyalty is with; God or man? I pray that if this question is something you are contemplating, that you will find what can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” (Matthew 11:28–29)