[Watchtower study for the week of March 10, 2014 – w14 1/15 p.12]

Par. 2 – “Jehovah has already become King in our day!…And yet, Jehovah’s becoming King is not the same as the coming of God’s Kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray.”
Before going further, a little perspective is called for.  Jehovah is spoken of as the King of eternity in two places in the Christian Greek Scriptures.  In two more places, he is spoken of as starting to rule as King, presumably over the Kingdom of God.  So in reference to our study theme, there are two places in the Christian Greek Scriptures that focus on the kingship as Jehovah’s.[1]  However, a simple word-search in the WTLib program will reveal almost 50 places where the focus is on Jesus as the King.
So it would appear that we are missing the point that Jehovah is trying to get across.  He’s telling us to focus on the Christ as his appointed King, but we choose to ignore him.  Imagine a father throwing a celebration for his firstborn son who has just been appointed to an exalted position and instead of spending our time and efforts honoring the son as the father wishes, we spend all our time giving scant lip service to the son while focusing almost exclusively on the father.  Would that make him happy?
Par. 3 – “Toward the end of the 19th century, light began to shine on a 2,500-year-old prophecy…”  Actually, it was early in the 19th century that this happened.  William Miller, founder of the Millerite Adventist movement used it to promote the belief that 1844 was the year the world would end.  Prior to him, John Aquila Brown published The Even-Tide in 1823 which equated the Seven Times with 2,520 actual years.[2]
“The Bible Students spent decades pointing out that the year 1914 would be significant.  Many people at that time were optimistic.  As one writer states: “The world of 1914 was full of hope and promise.”  With the outbreak of World War I later that year, however, Bible prophecy came true.”
I am absolutely sure that come this weekend, the comments will fly praising God for revealing to Russell that the presence of Christ began in 1914 right on schedule.  All will be led to believe that prophecy did indeed come true.  What very few will be aware of and what the publishers of this article are carefully concealing is the fact that like Miller before him, Russell believed that the 2,500-year-old prophecy would mark the start of the great tribulation, not Christ’s alleged invisible presence. He had already stated that April, 1878 was when Jesus assumed his kingly power invisibly in the heavens.  This date as the start of Christ’s presence was not dropped until 1929.[3]  One can only assume that had a world war occurred in 1844, Millerites would still be around today in force, having avoided the disconfirmation of their prophetic interpretation by redefining it as the start of Christ’s invisible presence.  Alas, no such luck for them.
It is a flagrant bit of revisionist history for us to claim that “Bible prophecy came true” when what we were expecting to get in 1914 was the start of the great tribulation.  It wasn’t even until 1969 that we finally admitted that the great tribulation didn’t start in 1914.
“The subsequent famines, earthquakes, and pestilences…proved conclusively that Jesus Christ had begun to rule in heaven…in 1914.”
Far from being conclusive proof of Christ’s alleged invisible presence, there is sound reason for believing Jesus was warning us not to be deceived into believing he’d arrived before his time by wars and natural catastrophes.[4]
Par. 4 – “The first mission of God’s newly installed King was to wage war against his Father’s chief Adversary, Satan.  Jesus and his angels cast the Devil and his demons out of heaven.” 
First of all, the Bible says that it was Michael waging war and doing the casting out.  There’s no proof that Michael and Jesus are one and the same.  Quite the contrary, Michael is referred to as “one of the foremost princes”.[5]  Jesus’ prehuman role was unique both as the Word of God and the firstborn/only begotten Son of God.  There is no allowance in all that for him to be merely one of any group.  For him to be merely one of the foremost princes means there were other princes equal to him.  Such a thought is inconsistent with all we know of him.
Could it be that Michael is used to oust Satan because Jesus wasn’t there?  Some interesting thoughts along those lines have been expressed in several comments on this site.[6]  What if we consider the 12th chapter of Revelation as beginning to occur at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Once Jesus had died, integrity intact, there was nothing more to prove.  Why keep Satan around any longer?  1 Peter 3:19 speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison.   If Michael had already confined the Devil and his demons to the vicinity of the earth following Jesus death, then the demons were imprisoned and this preaching work of Jesus would be in the sense of his presenting himself to them as proof that Satan’s challenge had been defeated.  This could be what Jesus was referring to at Luke 10:18.
With his failure to subvert Jesus, he had truly failed and all that was left for him was to go after the remainder of the seed.  He had a short time remaining; not from our limited human perspective but for a being who had been around since, what?…the founding of the universe?…It would indeed be a short time.
Would that fit with the whole “woe to the earth and the sea” warning?  There is no record of a dark ages prior to Jesus.  No pre-Christian record of worldwide pandemics like the black plague that reduced Europe’s population by as much as 60%.  No B.C.E. era record of wars raging for decades like the 30-years war and the 100-years war.  In Israelite times, there was no period of a six-or-seven-century-long span of oppression, scientific regression and ignorance like the Dark Ages.  Mankind had made great strides in science, architecture, and social reform by the time of Christ.  It took well over a millennia to get back on track after the first century ended.  Indeed, it wasn’t until the Renaissance that light began to shine again.
If we stick to the official doctrine that Satan was cast down after the October, 1914 enthronement of Christ, we’re stuck with the inconsistency that his supposed first act of anger—his first woe—was the First World War which began at least two months (August) before he was chucked out of heaven.  Additionally, if he is really so angry because all he has left is 100 years or so, why have 70 of those 100 years been the longest period of peace, prosperity and freedom in the history of the western world?
The facts don’t support what our publication would have us believe.
Par. 5 – “Jehovah directed Jesus to inspect and refine the spiritual condition of his followers on earth.  The prophet Malachi described this as a spiritual cleansing. (Mal. 3:1-3) History shows that this took place between 1914 and the early part of 1919.  To be part of Jehovah’s universal family, we must be clean, or holy…We must keep free from any contamination by false religion or the politics of this world.”
Again, the readers are expected to simply believe these assertions—that Jesus started a prophesied cleansing of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1914 and ended it in 1919, selecting the organization under Rutherford as his chosen people.  There is nothing to link Malachi’s prophecy with that year by the way, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this inspection did indeed take place then.  If so, wouldn’t Jesus reject any religion which was contaminated by false worship?  We say so in our fifth paragraph.
Okay, what about a religion that prominently displayed the pagan symbol of the cross as we did on every cover of Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence?  What about a religion that based its scriptural date calculations on the measurements of the Pyramids designed by pagan Egyptians?  Would that make us free of “contamination by false religion”?  What about a religion that, by our own admission, had failed to maintain Christian neutrality during the First World War?  Could we lay claim to being “free from any contamination by…the politics of this world”?  If we didn’t correct the understanding that led to this alleged political compromising until well past the supposed 1919 end of Christ’s inspection, why would Jesus chose us?
Par. 6 – “Jesus then [in 1919] used his kingly authority to appoint a “faithful and discreet slave.”  The slave is there to feed the domestics.  In 1918, Rutherford—the alleged 1919 slave appointee—was teaching that there would be a resurrection of the ancient men of faith in 1925 followed by the end of the great tribulation with the war of Armageddon.  That hubris cost many to lose faith when the prophecy failed to come true.  Would Jesus appoint a slave to feed us poisonous food? [7]
Par. 9 – “In the first century, the King-Designate…”  Jesus is never referred to as “King-Designate”.  Colossians 1:13 was fulfilled in the first century.  Christ was the king to whom all authority had been given.[8]  That he chose not to exercise his authority to the fullest extent at that time was the King’s prerogative, not because he wasn’t yet King.
Par. 12 – “In 1938, democratic elections of responsible men in the congregations were replaced by theocratic appointments.”  Sounds good, but what does it mean?  Since “theocratic” means “rule by God”, one thinks that the current arrangement is the way God appoints servants.  This is simply not the case.  The democratic election of the congregation was replaced by the democratic recommendation of the body of elders.   What Rutherford did in 1938 was to take the control away from the local congregations and put it into the hands of the central authority.  There is no way for the brothers in the branch to know a local brother well enough to properly apply the Bible’s criteria for servants as found in Timothy and Titus.  True theocratic appointments would mean that Jehovah directs the brothers at the branch office or even locally to make the right decision. If that were the case, there would never be any appointments of individuals who truly didn’t qualify, but that is often the case as anyone who has ever served as an elder can tell you.  Whether our current process is the best or not is not in dispute.  That we should call it theocratic is however very much in dispute.  It lays the blame for faulty appointments at the feet of God.
Par. 17 – “The thrilling events of 100 years of Kingdom rule assure us that Jehovah is in control…”
First of all, this statement unseats Jesus.  Jehovah has commissioned his Son to take control of the kingdom, whether it came in 1914 or is yet to come.  Why are we so intent on overlooking the King Jehovah himself has commissioned?
That aside, the entire statement is an appalling gloss-over of historic realities we’d like to forget.  I do not think I am overstating things.  The embarrassing failure of the “millions now living will never die” campaign and the debacle of the 1925 resurrection of the ancient worthies which saw our attendance numbers drop by over 80% from 90,000 in 1925 to 17,000 in 1928  debacle.  Then there was the disheartening multiple reinterpretations of “this generation”, combined with the antics surrounding the year 1975.  These and many more humiliating prophetic and procedural fiascos are all to be laid at the feet of Jehovah?  He was in control??  These are the thrilling events that clutter our path over the past century like so many theological potholes.

The Graph Spanning Pages 14 and 15

To the untrained eye, the growth depicted in this graph seems impressive. In fact, what is shown is a slowing of growth.  Take the 40-year period from 1920 to 1960.  Going from 17,000 to 850,000 is a 50-fold period of growth.  That’s 49 members in 1960 for every 1 in 1920.   Now look at the next 40 years with its impressive upward slant on our graph.  850,000 becomes 6,000,000.  That’s only a 7-fold growth or 6 new members for every 1 in 1960.  Not so impressive when viewed this way, is it?  If the 1920-1960 growth rate had held up, we would have had 42,500,000 witnesses by the end of the century.  So we are slowing down and the downward trend continues into 2014.
For some interesting graphs and statistical analysis, click here. [9]

In Summary

This promises to be a particularly difficult Watchtower to sit through while restraining oneself from jumping up every other paragraph and letting loose an indignant cry of “Hold on just a minute there!”
I seriously don’t know how I’m going to manage.

[1] 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 15:3; 11:17; 19:6,7
[2] A tip of the hat to Bobcat for this information.
[3] From Studies in the Scriptures IV: A “generation” might be reckoned as equivalent to a century (practically the present limit) or one hundred and twenty years, Moses’ lifetime and the Scripture limit. (Gen. 6:3.) Reckoning a hundred years from 1780, the date of the first sign, the limit would reach to 1880; and to our understanding every item predicted had begun to be fulfilled at that date; the harvest of gathering time beginning October 1874; the organization of the Kingdom and the taking by our Lord of his great power as the King in April 1878, and the time of trouble or “day of wrath” which began October 1874, and will cease about 1915; and the sprouting of the fig tree. Those who choose might without inconsistency say that the century or generation might as properly reckon from the last sign, the falling of the stars, as from the first, the darkening of the sun and moon:  and a century beginning 1833 would be still far from run out. Many are living who witnessed the star-falling sign. Those who are walking with us in the light of present truth are not looking for things to come which are already here, but are waiting for the consummation of matters already in progress. Or, since the Master said, “When ye shall see all these things,” and since “the sign of the Son of Man in heaven,” and the budding fig tree, and the gathering of “the elect” are counted among the signs, it would not be inconsistent to reckon the “generation” from 1878 to 1914–36 1/2 years– about the average of human life today.
[4] For a detailed explanation see “Wars and Reports of Wars—A Red Herring?
[5] Daniel 10:13
[6] See comments 1 and 2
[7] See a series of articles under the topic, “Identifying the Slave”.
[8] Matthew 28:18
[9] Thanks to menrov for this information.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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