I was raised believing we are preaching a life-saving message. This isn’t in the sense of salvation from sin and death, but in the sense of salvation from eternal destruction at Armageddon. Our publications liken it to the message of Ezekiel, and we are warned that like Ezekiel, if we do not go door to door, we will incur blood guilt.
(Ezekiel 3:18) When I say to someone wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ but you do not warn him, and you fail to speak in order to warn the wicked one to turn from his wicked course so that he may stay alive, he will die for his error because he is wicked, but I will ask his blood back from you.
Now let me insert a little disclaimer here: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t preach. We are under command from our Lord Jesus to make disciples. The question is: What are we commanded to preach?
Jesus came to the earth to declare the good news. However, our message is a warning to the wicked that they are going to die eternally if they don’t listen to us. Essentially, we are taught that the blood of all those on earth who die at Armageddon would be on our hands if we do not preach. How many thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses believed this in the first 60 years of the 20th Century. Yet everyone they preached to, whether they accepted the message or not, ended up dead; not at God’s hands, but because of inherited sin. They all went to Hades; the common grave. Thus, according to our publications, all these dead ones will be raised. So no blood guilt was incurred.
This has caused me to realize that our preaching work was never about warning people about Armageddon. How could it be when the message has been on-going for 2,000 years and Armageddon still hasn’t happened. We cannot know when that day or hour will come, so we cannot alter our preaching work to provide a warning against imminent destruction. Our true message has not changed for a score of centuries. As in the days of Christ, so it is now. It is the good news about the Christ. It is about reconciliation with God. It is about the gathering of a seed by which the nations will bless themselves. Those who respond have the opportunity to be with Christ in the heavens and to serve in the restoration of a paradise earth, taking part in the healing of the nations. (Ge 26:4; Gal 3:29)
Those who do not listen do not necessarily lose out entirely. If that were the case, then there would be no one to resurrect from the time of Christ onward—at least no one from Christendom. The message we are supposed to preach isn’t about escaping destruction at Armageddon, but about becoming reconciled with God.
The artificial urgency of preaching a message aimed at saving people from imminent destruction has altered lives and disrupted families. It is presumptuous as well, for it assumes we know how close that destruction is, when the facts of history have revealed that we have no idea whatsoever. If you count from the publication of the first Watchtower, we have been preaching imminent destruction for over 135 years! However, it’s worse than that, for the doctrines that influenced Russell originate at least 50 years before he started his preaching work, meaning that the urgent message of the nearness of the end has been on the lips of Christians for two centuries. Of course, we could go back even farther if we chose, but the point is made. The eagerness of Christians to know the unknowable has led to deviation from the true message of the good news since sometime in the first century. It has shifted the focus of these ones—myself included for a time—so that we have preached an altered and corrupted good news of the Christ. What danger is there in doing that? Paul’s words spring to mind.
(Galatians 1:8, 9) . . .However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond the good news we declared to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, I now say again, Whoever is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed.
There is still time to put things right if we have the courage to do so.