“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!” –  Canto VI, XVII, popularized by the Scottish poem, Marmion.

It is an accepted truism that lies beget more lies as the liar must find ways to support the initial falsehood.  While this is the case for the willful liar, what about the well-intentioned Bible researcher who unwittingly arrives at a false conclusion?  While not necessarily making such a one a liar, he is still perpetrating falsehood, albeit unknowingly.  Sure of his belief, he starts to see every relevant scriptural passage through the warped lens of what he sees as “present truth”.[i]

Let us take for instance, the teaching that Jesus was enthroned in the heavens in 1914, making that the year the Kingdom of God was established.[ii]  Any Scripture that speaks of Jesus as King must be woven into the web that includes the 1914 establishment of his Kingdom.  This brings us to this week’s CLAM, under the meeting part, “Treasures from God’s Word” – “A King Will Reign for Righteousness”.  Here, Isaiah 32:1-4 is discussed:

“Look! A king will reign for righteousness, And princes will rule for justice. (Isa 32:1)
Since the belief is that the king began to reign in 1914, the princes must also be reigning since then.  This immediately creates a discrepancy with other passages in the Bible.  The Word of God makes it clear that anointed Christians will rule with Christ as kings and priests. (2Ti 2:12; Re 5:10; Re 20:4) When a king reigns under another king, he is also called a prince. Jesus, ruling under Jehovah God, is called both king and prince.  For instance, he is called the “Prince of Peace” by Isaiah. (Isa. 9:6) So these anointed kings must be the princes who “will rule for justice itself.”  Is there another conclusion that is consistent with the rest of Scripture?  Unfortunately, this conclusion does not jibe with the teaching that Jesus began ruling over 100 years ago, since it would force us to find a way to fit the following verses into the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“And each one will be like a hiding place from the wind, A place of concealment from the rainstorm, Like streams of water in a waterless land, Like the shadow of a massive crag in a parched land.  3 Then the eyes of those seeing will no longer be pasted shut, And the ears of those hearing will pay attention.  4 The heart of those who are impetuous will ponder over knowledge, And the stammering tongue will speak fluently and clearly.” (Isa 32:2-4)

Therefore, we must assume that the Jesus’ co-rulers are being completely ignored in this prophecy. Instead, Isaiah is being inspired to write about congregation elders.  This is the teaching we are told to accept by those claiming to be the faithful slave.

Right now in this time of worldwide distress, there is a need for “princes,” yes, elders who will “pay attention to . . . all the flock,” caring for Jehovah’s sheep and administering justice in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous principles. (Acts 20:28) Such “princes” must meet the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.  (ip-1 chap. 25 p. 332 par. 6 The King and His Princes)

Additionally, since JW theology teaches that the anointed will leave earth and go to heaven and govern remotely from there, an additional role opens up for these elder-princes.

“Princes” who are of the other sheep are being trained as a developing “chieftain” class so that after the great tribulation, qualified ones from among them will be ready for appointment to serve in an administrative capacity in the “new earth.”
(ip-1 chap. 25 pp. 332-334 par. 8 The King and His Princes)

Since verse 1 says that the princes rule for justice, we must conclude that elders are to rule.  If one rules, one is a governor, a leader, a ruler.  This means that congregation elders are rulers or leaders.  Yet Jesus tells us that we are to be called neither “Teacher” nor “Leader”.  How can we weave that particular Bible truth into our web?

Of course, if we discard the teaching that 1914 is the start of Christ’s rule, then we can understand that the period Isaiah is pointing to must be the 1,000 reign of Christ when the princes that rule with him will actually rule as kings do.  Additionally, for verses 2 thru 4 to apply, we would have to accept that these princes will have face-to-face contact with those they rule, just as the resurrected Jesus had physical contact with his disciples.  Since the resurrection of millions of unrighteous will be a time of turmoil as these ones—many of whom will likely be resistant to the new arrangement—are integrated into a new society, there is ample reason to believe the words of the prophet will prove very true.

The Congregation Bible Study

We have been led to believe from this book and numerous references down through the years in the magazines that the 1919 convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, was the turning point at which the great campaign to preach to all the inhabited earth began.  The release of the Golden Age was to be a major part of the preaching campaign to proclaim the Good News of the Christ to the entire inhabited earth.  One might therefore assume that the central message of the Golden Age would be “The King and His Kingdom”. After all, that is what Rutherford was calling for all his followers to “Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!”

Here is a capture of the index from the first issue of the Golden Age.  Looking at subsequent issues, one can see little change in content.

At a time when the phrase, “An honest day’s work for an honest dollar”, could be applied literally, a cost of 10 cents an issue was no giveaway. Had you lived then, and as true Christian preacher of the Good News, would you have felt you were making good use of your time in Christ’s service by trying to sell subscriptions to this magazine, given its contents?

Did sincere Christians really resist the idea that they should share in the ministry, as paragraph 16 alleges, or was their objection to sharing in Rutherford’s version of the ministry the real objection?  Consider that this magazine’s title was based on the belief that the Golden Age was about to begin in 1925, that humanity was even then in the midst of the great tribulation which would culminate in Armageddon. Would you want to share in that ministry?

The publications paint a rosy picture of zealous preachers doing the Lord’s work, but the historical reality paints an entirely different landscape.

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[i] One might assume that at some point, it would become evident to the sincere Bible student when his belief is proven false.  At such a point in time, continuing to teach it would qualify as “liking and carrying on a lie”. (Re 22:15)  Nevertheless, God is the final judge.

[ii] For an analysis of this teaching, see Was 1914 the Start of Christ’s Presence?