State of Fear

– posted by meleti

With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it.
You must not get frightened at him. (Deut. 18:22)

It is a time honored truth that one of the best ways for a human ruler to control a population is to keep them in fear.  In totalitarian regimes, people are afraid of the ruler because of the military.  In freer societies that won’t do, so an outside threat is needed to keep people in fear.  If people are afraid of something, they can be induced to surrender their rights and resources to those who promise to take care of them.  By creating a State of Fear, politicians and governments can hold on to power indefinitely.
During the decades of the Cold War, we were kept in fear of the Red Menace.  Billions, if not trillions were spent ‘to keep us safe.’  Then the Soviet Union quietly went away and we needed something else to fear.  Global terrorism raised its ugly little head, and people gave up even more rights and freedoms—and significant amounts of capital—in the cause of protecting ourselves.  Of course, there were other things along the way to add to our worries, and enrich and empower savvy entrepreneurs.   Things like global warming (now termed the less friendly “climate change”), the so-called AIDS epidemic and economic collapse; to name a few.
Now, I am not trivializing the threat of nuclear war, global pandemics or the horrific blight of terrorism.  The point is that unscrupulous men have exploited our fears of these real problems to their own advantage, often exaggerating the threat or causing us to see a threat where none exists—WMDs in Iraq being one of the more blatant examples.  The average Joe can’t cope with all these worries, so if someone tells him, “Just do what I tell you and give me the money I need, and I’ll take care of it all for you.”…well, Joe Average will do just that, and with a big smile on his face.
The worst thing for any ruling elite is a happy, secure and peaceful society; one with no worries.  When people have time on their hands and no anxiety to cloud their minds, they start to—and this is the real threat—reason for themselves. 
Now I have no desire to get into a political debate, nor am I suggesting a better way for humans to rule other humans.  (The only successful way for humans to be governed is for God to do the governing.)  I merely state this historical pattern to highlight an exploitable failing of sinful humans: The readiness  to surrender our will and our freedom to another when we are made to feel afraid.
This is the focus of our theme text from Deuteronomy 18:22.  Jehovah knew that a false prophet would need to depend on inspiring fear in his listeners so that they would listen to and obey him.  His message would invariably be: “Listen to me, obey me, and be blessed”.  The problem for the listener is that this is the same thing that the true prophet says.  When the Apostle Paul warned the crew that their ship would be lost if they didn’t follow his counsel, he was speaking under inspiration.  They didn’t obey and so they suffered the loss of their ship.   In reproving them, he said “Men, YOU certainly ought to have taken my advice [Lit. “have been obedient to me”] and not have put out to sea from Crete and have sustained this damage and loss.” (Acts 27:21) Interestingly, the word we translate as ‘advice’ here is the same word used at Acts 5:29 where it is rendered ‘obey’ (“We must obey God as ruler rather than men”).  Since Paul was speaking under inspiration, the crew were not listening to God, not obeying God, and therefore were not blessed.
An inspired utterance needs to be obeyed.  An uninspired one…not so much.
Paul had the advantage of being a true prophet because he spoke under inspiration.  The false prophet speaks of his own initiative.  His only hope is that his listeners will be fooled into believing he speaks under inspiration and therefore will obey him.  He depends on the fear he is inspiring in them; fear that if they do not heed his direction, they will suffer dire consequences.
That is the hold and power of the false prophet.  Jehovah warned his people of old not to allow themselves to be frightened by the presumptuous false prophet.  This command of our heavenly Father is as valid and timely today as it was thirty five hundred years ago.
Virtually all human government depends on this ability to induce fear in the populace so that it can rule.  In contrast, our Lord Jesus rules based on love, not fear.  He is completely secure in his position as our King and needs no such exploitive tricks.   Human leaders, on the other hand, are plagued by insecurity; the fear that their subjects will stop obeying; that they may one day wise up and overthrow their leaders.  So they need to distract us by planting fear of some outside threat—a threat from which only they are capable of protecting us.  To rule, they must maintain a State of Fear.
What does this have to do with us, you may ask?  As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have Christ as our ruler, so we are free of this malady.
It is true that Christians do have only one leader, the Christ.  (Mat. 23:10)  Since he rules with love, should we see someone coming in his name, but using the tactics of a state of fear to rule, we should be very wary.  The warning of Deuteronomy 18:22 should ring in our ears.
Recently, we were told that our salvation will depend on “the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization [read: the Governing Body] which 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)
This is a truly remarkable assertion.  Yet in making it, we do not point to any Bible text that foretells such an event nor the use of the Governing Body as inspired transmitters of the word of God.  Since the Bible gives no indication that Jehovah will use this method to provide any life-saving instruction that may be needed—assuming more is needed than what we already have—one must assume that these men have received a divine revelation.  How else could they know this eventuality will take place?  Yet they make no claim to such.  Still, if we are to believe this will be the case, then that would mean they will receive inspired instruction in the future.  Essentially, they have been told by some method that does not involve an inspired revelation that they will be given an inspired revelation.  And we had better be prepared for it and listen up good, or we are all going to die.
It follows therefore that we had better quash any doubts we may have, ignore any inconsistencies or disparities we may see in what we are taught, and just knuckle down and comply with all the direction we get, because to do otherwise risks being removed from the Organization.  If we are on the outside, we won’t get the instructions we’ll need to be saved when the time comes.
Again, please note that there is nothing in the inspired word of God to communicate to his people that key piece of survival intelligence.  We just have to believe it because those in authority are telling us it is so.
A State Of Fear.
Now we must add to this strategy the release of the January 15 The Watchtower.  In the final study article, “Let Your Kingdom Come”—But When?” we come across a discussion of our latest understanding regarding the meaning of  “this generation” as recorded at Matthew 24:34.  On pages 30 and 31 in paragraphs 14 to 16 a refinement has been added.
If you’ll recall, our teaching on this changed in 2007.  We were told that it referred to the small, distinct group of anointed Christians, the remnant of the 144,000 still on earth.  This, despite the fact that only ten years earlier we were assured that “many scriptures confirm that Jesus did not use “generation” with regard to some small or distinct group, meaning…only his loyal disciples….”  (w97 6/1 p. 28 Questions from Readers)
Then in 2010 we were informed that the meaning of generation had been determined to refer to two distinct groups  of anointed Christians whose lives overlapped—one group living during the events of 1914 who would not survive to see Armageddon and another group born long after 1914 who would.  These two groups would be bound together into a single generation by virtue of having overlapping lifetimes.  That such a definition of the word “generation” is not to be found in any dictionary or lexicon of either English or Greek seemed not to have bothered the architects of this brave, new term.  Nor, more significantly, does the fact that the concept of this super-generation is nowhere to be found in Scripture.
The fact that we have misinterpreted the meaning of the term on the periodic basis of roughly once per decade starting in the 1950s is one of the reasons that many thinking Witnesses are having trouble with this latest definition.  Among these, a mounting mental disquiet stems from the realization that this latest definition is a mere contrivance, and a transparent one at that.
I have found that most of the faithful deal with the cognitive dissonance this gives rise to by using a classic denial tactic.  They don’t want to think about it and they don’t want to talk about it, so they simply ignore it.  To do otherwise would take them down a road they are not prepared to travel.
The Governing Body must be aware of this situation, because they have specifically dealt with the issue in both our last circuit assembly and district convention programs.  Why not simply admit we don’t know what it means; but that when it is fulfilled, its meaning will become clear?  The reason is that they need to interpret the prophecy this way to continue bolstering our state of fear.  Essentially, the belief that “this generation” indicates the end is very near, possibly less than five or ten years away, helps keep everyone in line.
For a time back in the 1990s it looked like we had finally abandoned this strategy.  In the June 1, 1997 The Watchtower on page 28 we clarified the most recent change in understanding by explaining that “it did give us a clearer grasp of Jesus’ use of the term “generation,” helping us to see that his usage was no basis for calculating—counting from 1914—how close to the end we are.”
Given this, it is all the more reprehensible that we are now returning to the strategy of utilizing Jesus prophecy to attempt to ‘calculate—counting from 1914—how close the end is’.
The latest refinement as explained in the January 15 The Watchtower is that only Christians already anointed with spirit in 1914 could constitute the first part of the generation.  In addition, only from the time of their anointing could the second group overlap the first.
So being generous and saying that the first group of our two-part generation was 20 years old at baptism, then they must have been born in 1894 latest.  (All Bible Students as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called were anointed with holy spirit at their baptism prior to 1935)  That would make them 90 years old in 1984.  Now the second group only counts if they were already anointed when their lives overlapped with the first.  The second group, unlike the first, were not spirit anointed at baptism.  Usually those who are anointed now are older upon receiving the nod from on high.  Again, let’s be very generous and say that all of the current 11,000 claiming to be of the anointed, really are.  Let’s also be generous and say they are anointed at the average age of 30.  (A little young, perhaps, since it would be more likely Jehovah would choose older more tested individuals given he now has millions of candidates to choose from, but we’re trying to be generous in our calculation, so we’ll leave it at 30.)
Now let’s say that half of the 11,000 received that anointing on or before 1974.  That would provide a 10-year overlap with the first generation (assuming a significant number lived past the age of 80) and would represent a median birth year of 1944.  These people are now approaching 70 years of life. This means there are not many years left for this system of things.[i]  Five to ten would be a safe bet, with as much as twenty pushing the envelope.  Remember, there are only about 5,000 people making up this generation still alive.  How many will still be around in ten more years?  How many still have to be alive for it to remain a generation and not just a garden party?
(An interesting aside to this new refinement is that it puts 2, possibly 3, of the 8 members of the Governing Body outside the timeframe to make them part of the generation.  Geoffrey Jackson was born in 1955, so unless he was anointed at the age of 21, he’s outside our timeframe.  Mark Sanderson was only born in 1965, so he’d have to have received the anointing of holy spirit at age 10 to qualify. Anthony Morris (1950) and Stephen Lett (1949) are on the borderline.  It would depend when they were anointed.)
So our latest definition which applies the term “generation” as used at Mt. 24:34 exclusively to the anointed must now exclude even some of them as not part of the generation.
Barely a decade and a half ago we stated that “many scriptures” proved that the generation could not be a small, distinct group of humans, and that it wasn’t intended to allow us to calculate from 1914 just how close the end was.  Now we’ve abandoned both those teachings, without even bothering to show how the “many scriptures” referenced back then no longer apply.
Perhaps they are opening the year 2014 with this reaffirmation of 1914 and all things relating to it because it marks a century since the last days supposedly began.  Perhaps they fear we are beginning to doubt them.  Perhaps they fear their authority is being threatened.  Or perhaps they fear for us.  Perhaps they are so sure of the pivotal role 1914 plays in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose that they are making this effort to again instill fear in us, fear of doubting them, fear of missing out on the prize by drifting away from the Organization, fear of losing out.  Whatever the case, teaching made-up definitions and contrived prophetic fulfillments cannot be the way approved of by our God and Father nor by our Lord Jesus.
In case some are saying that we are naysayers, acting like those depicted in 2 Peter 3:4, let us be clear.  We do expect Armageddon and we most certainly do expect the promised presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whether that comes in three months, three years, or thirty years should make no difference in our alertness nor our preparedness.  We are not serving for a date, but for all time.  We are wrong to attempt to know the “times and seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction”.  We have ignored that injunction repeatedly during my lifetime, first in the 1950s, then after a redefinition, in the 1960s, then after another redefinition, in the 1970s, then after yet another redefinition in the 1980s, and now in the 21st century we are doing it again.

“And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” 22 when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.”  (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Nuf’ said.

[i] I should state that this line of reasoning based on the idea of a little flock of anointed ones and a much larger flock of other sheep separated as of 1935 is not mine, nor does it reflect my personal beliefs, nor what I can prove from Scripture.  I merely state it here to follow the train of logic which stems from the cited The Watchtower article.

Archived Comments

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  • Comment by SilverTop on 2013-10-29 18:54:33

    Well done and well written. It just further crystalizes my doubts and questions about the organization as it is today. I have no doubt that the majority of Jehovah's Witnesses are loving, decent, god-fearing people who want to serve Jehovah God through His Son Jesus Christ. I also have no doubt that there are those who wish to rule over Jehovah's people and bend us to their, human will. I will continue to study Jehovah's word the Bible, and ONLY the information which can be backed up and proven by Scripture will I pay any actual attention to. Thank you Meleti for being the voice of reason.

  • Comment by anderestimme on 2013-10-29 23:54:11

    Part of the motivation for this latest, convoluted definition of a generation is undoubtedly to keep us in a state of fear and heightened expectation. But there is another motive as well: The organization's claim to be 'God's organization', and the GB's claim to be the 'faithful slave' is intimately entwined with 1914. The doctrine of 1914 must be saved, even if it means trying to pass off a ridiculous explanation of Matt. 24:34. I wonder if anyone on the GB has his doubts and finds himself shaking his head at the gullibility of the worldwide brotherhood.

  • Comment by smolderingwick1 on 2013-10-30 05:37:54

    Thanks Meleti,
    I recall giving the talk, "Appreciating Jehovah's Organization" (no. 10 of the old 80 list). Yes, and now I eat my words! Now WE were the false prophets and as such should be very much in fear of the true prophet coming to expose us all. In this I am also reminded of how crime syndicates operate, bringing a particular unspoken fear into their associated families through an affirmation of positive intimidation. Need I remind anyone how such intimidation works ... the deals they make that no one can refuse while in their trust? That positive smile of the goodfella or the kiss on the cheek before they snuff you?
    No I am not a paranoid schizophrenic off his meds. But I do understand this particular brand of bullying even though the bullies don't seem to be aware of it in themselves. I do believe that we are all in for the long haul and that our true test is yet to come which will be fearful since it comes from both sides.....within and without. Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, we were reminded tonight in question 4 of our Theocratic Ministry School oral review of 2 Cor. 1:24. So said Paul, but not so our governing body.

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2013-10-30 07:47:11

      Sadly, you're not being paranoid at all. I know of one elder who was so troubled by the conflict he was experiencing that he went to a psychiatrist. He did not want to bring reproach upon the organization, so he did not tell the doctor that he was with a religious organization of any kind. He merely explained that he was in a position of authority within an organization and wanted to leave because his conscience bothered him. However, he was afraid to leave because that would mean losing all contact with family and friends. Even discussing the reason why he wanted to leave with others in a similar position of authority would put him in danger of losing everything he held valuable.
      He was shocked when he learned that the psychiatrist had drawn the conclusion that he was a member of a criminal organization.
      Thanks for reminding us of 2 Cor. 1:24. Our authoritative hierarchy clearly does not act in accordance with the inspired direction from that verse.

  • Comment by miken on 2013-10-30 07:52:58

    Another scripture the GB continue to ignore in their continual rhetoriic on how close to the end of this system we are is Luke 21:8. There Jesus tells us "Look out you are not misled.
    ; for many will come on the basis of my name saying, 'i am he,' and 'The due time has approached.' Do not go after them.
    With regard to another possible interpretation of "generation" at Matt 24:34 the greek used for generation is Genea which can mean " a race of people, possessed of similar characteristics, persuits etc. of a bad character which Jesus had previously applied to the Jews, Matt 17:17; Mk 9:19; Lk 9:41; 16:8 and Peter at Acts 2:40.
    After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE and the defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt 132-136 CE, the Jews virtually disappeared as a distict nation for over 1800 years until their national re-establishment in 1948 (a unique event in history). Paul discussed the restoration of the Jews to God's favor in Rom 11:17-32 and in that passage of scripture if they put their faith in God's ransom sacrifice Jesus Christ they will eventually "pass away" as a nation and become part of the body of Christ.

    • Reply by Anonymous on 2013-10-30 19:10:00

      It's very interesting to note how the ESV renders Luke 21:8:
      "And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them."
      "The time is at hand!" Does that sound familiar? It should, because that is the exact title of a book published by C.T. Russel - a book that contained false end time date predictions!
      Exactly how could Jesus have chosen an organization started by the likes of those he specifically told his followers not to go after?

    • Reply by Jude on 2013-10-31 02:27:28

      Perhaps the key to understanding Matthew 24:34 is found in the surrounding context. Matthew 24:32-35 reads:
      “32 Now learn from the fig tree as an illustration this point: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and it puts forth leaves, YOU know that summer is near. 33 Likewise also YOU, when YOU see all these things, know that he is near at the doors. 34 Truly I say to YOU that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away."
      Note that in verse 33 Jesus refers to all the events indicating the nearness of his presence as "all these things". He uses the same phrase. "all these things" in verse 34 where he says the generation will not pass away.
      But since "all these things" refer only to the events indicating the nearness of his presence and not his actual presence, Matthew 24:34 does not mean that the generation seeing "all these things" will necessarily live to see his presence. It only means they will live to see all the events indicating the nearness of his presence.
      It appears that Jesus made the statement in verse 34 to emphasize the unmistakable character of the events foretold, to make the point that they will all take place in a single generation or lifetime so as to be discernible in totallity to those alive then. In other words, the events indicating that his presense is near will not be so far apart as to span many decades or centuries. They will all happen in one generation and this short duration is critical in determining that these are the events indicating his presence is near - as opposed to similar events spanning many decades or centuries in the past.
      He was not giving a deadline for his actual presence. It would make no sense for him to give any kind of generation deadline for his presence just before going on to say in verse 36 that no one knows the day or the hour. He was simply emphasizing the short span of time during which all the foretold events indicating the nearness of his presence, would occur.

    • Reply by Jude on 2013-10-31 02:37:42

      Our current interpretation of Matthew 24:34 violates the intent of Matthew 24:36 because it allows us to set a reasonably accurate deadline for the end by examining the lifespans of the anointed from the two groups and extrapolating forward. It makes no sense that Jesus would say no one knows the day or hour right after making a statement that would allw those seeing the signs of the times to set a deadline.
      The key may be in the meaning of the phrase "all these things". Since "all these things" indicate that his presence is near - and not here - then they cannot include his actual presence. The generation will not pass away until they see all the events indicating that the presence is near.

      • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2013-10-31 08:43:25

        I believe you have hit the nail on the head, Jude. The Organization has taken "all these things" to include the historical events surrounding 1914 which includes the fulfillment in their view of "wars, and reports of wars, and earthquakes, and famines, and pestilences". However, as we've discussed elsewhere in this forum, Jesus wasn't saying that those things were signs of the nearness of his presence. Rather he was saying that we shouldn't be deceived into thinking such events signed his approach. The "all these things" that he referred to have to do with what is described from Mt. 24:15 to 31. The Great Tribulation will begin and then end, and then there will be false prophets and false Christs misleading even the chosen ones, and there will be confusion about his approaching presence, and then there will be signs in the heavens and the rapture of the chosen ones. A single generation will see all these things. For me, the need to reassure the chosen ones with this prophecy indicates that the span of the great tribulation and the events that follow it will be significant, for if it all lasts only a few weeks or months, there would be no need for such an assurance.

  • Comment by emilyjeff on 2013-10-30 17:42:21

    The carrot is always held out, but it’s backed up by the stick. You’re never safe, never good enough. There is always more expected of you. I found this quote which seems appropriate: “A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made. Or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then, again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and revaluation of prominent historical figures.”- George Orwell. Sound familiar?
    Also in regard to the organization's stand on being the only ones to preach the “good news of the kingdom” I have come to think they could be compared to the Pharisees of which Jesus said: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” Matthew 23:15

  • Comment by kev c on 2013-10-30 18:19:46

    Here here its mostly based on fear meleti. Armageddon disfellowshippment congregational discipline. What do others think of me. Shunning. Its so sad. The generation teaching keeps people on the edge. The brothers don't want to miss the bus. In reality as long as we have faith in christ perfected by love it doesn't matter when the end comes. As for the generation teaching its self I don't know what your views are but I woulnt be suprised if jesus was talking about the generation of the seed of the serpent. The word in nt is very often used in a negative sense. Example matthew 23. After all it was it the first century generation that actually slew all the prophets. And should their blood be on the heads of all that generation alive in jerusalem. In the first century many of whom were innocent. And that generation has passed away before the end has come but the seed of the serpent has not. I would love to know what you think meleti. And the brothers

    • Reply by kev c on 2013-10-31 08:21:04

      Also while the word generation can be used to mean a group of people living at the same time. It seems to me it more rightly refers to the genetic traits passed on from a father to a son a meaning that is well known in our scientific society today. Although in the greek there are different words for the term with different shades of meaning see strongs lexicon. Als interesting is that many people read matthew 24 without taking into account that it is a continuation of a discussion started in matthew 23. Where jesus clearly identifies the pharisees as the generation or offspring of the serpent. See king james version. This viewpoint seems logical to me but who knows I may be wrong after all I'm not gods spokesman like some claim.

  • Comment by katrina on 2013-11-06 17:26:46

    Seems that Eric may have been "a brother" one can't help but feel sad for ones that continue to support blatant unscriptual teachings of a self appointed slave GB.
    Its called fear, fear of not being able to face the truth about one's own faith and its failings, rather than look to the scriptures in prayer, one tends to turn to the WT to replace the holy spirit for answers.
    All the best Eric, and spamming up the board with loud fonts, shows the determination you have to try and attack those that only want to give support to Jehovah and his Son and helping brothers with truth from Gods word.
    Love unites, fear divides, how many are in the congregations with doubts and fears of speaking up, I would believe many. Sad but this is the way things have become, and will only get worse with the control the GB has given themselves over Gods flock.

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2013-11-06 17:39:40

      Hi Katrina,
      Although I agree with you in principle, I couldn't find the "Eric" you are referring to. Did you mean "Eddie" who fits the description you give and who commented under the post "No One Knows the Day or Hour--Until Now"?

      • Reply by Katrina on 2014-01-29 07:35:10

        my apologies, did mean "Eddie"

  • Comment by Midweek Meeting Comments – Mar. 17, 2014 | Beroean Pickets on 2014-03-17 18:21:16

    […] To be clear, I have nothing against maintaining a wakeful and waiting attitude.  How could I? That’s the command of Jesus.  However, creating an artificial sense of urgency based on speculative prophetic interpretations has always led to discouragement and stumbling.  We do this to encourage loyalty to men.  (See “State of Fear“) […]

  • Comment by WT Study: “Let Your Kingdom Come” But When? | Beroean Pickets on 2014-03-31 00:12:04

    […] a detailed analysis of the flaws in our current understanding of Matthew 24:34 read State of Fear and “This Generation”—2010 Interpretation […]

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