(Luke 8:10) . . .He said: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the Kingdom of God, but for the rest it is in illustrations so that, though looking, they may look in vain, and though hearing, they may not get the sense.
How about a little Q&A about this verse just for fun.
- Who is Jesus speaking to?
- To whom are the sacred secrets revealed?
- When are they revealed?
- From whom are they hidden?
- How are they hidden?
- Are they revealed progressively?
You get a passing grade if you answered:
- His disciples.
- His disciples.
- At that time 2,000 years ago.
- Those who rejected Jesus.
- By using illustrations.
- Yes, if you mean he didn’t give them all the answers at once. No, if you mean that he answered them incorrectly, then again incorrectly, then again incorrectly, then finally correctly (maybe).
(Incidentally, as trivial as this test may sound, getting a passing grade is really important.)
At our district convention[i] during the Friday afternoon session we were treated to a 20-minute discourse titled, “Sacred Secrets of the Kingdom Progressively Revealed.”
It quotes Mat. 10:27 wherein Jesus exhorts his disciples: “What I tell you in the darkness…preach from the housetops.” Of course, the things Jesus told us are in the Bible for all to read. The sacred secrets were revealed 2,000 years ago to all his disciples.
Apparently, however, another undocumented process has been going on. There have been refinements regarding the Kingdom of God which Jehovah has revealed in a progressive manner. The talk then goes on to explain five of these which we are to “preach from the housetops”.
Refinement #1: Jehovah’s Name and His Universal Sovereignty
The speaker stipulates that while the ransom is a key belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses, God’s name and sovereignty came to take first place among us. He stated, ‘that it is only proper that Jehovah’s name be held separate from and higher than all others.” While this is axiomatic, the question is: Should this replace our focus on the ransom? Is the sovereignty issue more important than the ransom? Is the Bible’s message about God’s sovereignty or about mankind’s salvation? Certainly, if it is about sovereignty, one would expect the theme to have been the focus of Jesus’ preaching. The word should be sprinkled throughout the Christian Scriptures. Yet, it does not occur even once.[ii] However, certainly Jehovah’s name, being the focus for Christians as we claim, would appear in the Christian Scriptures. Again, not once—unless you use the NWT where men have arbitrarily inserted it.
There is nothing wrong with using Jehovah’s name. The efforts of other religions to remove it from the Bible are nothing short of reprehensible. But we are talking about the focus of our preaching here. Who set that up? Did we or did God?
Surely we can discern the focus of our preaching by examining the focus of the preaching of the apostles and first century Christians. What message from Jesus were they “preaching from the housetops”? Click on these scripture references and you be the judge. (Acts 2:38; 3:6, 16; 4:7-12, 30; 5:41; 8:12, 16; 9:14-16, 27, 28; 10:43, 48; 15:28; 16:18)
Refinement #2: Being Called Jehovah’s Witnesses
This is a truly remarkable assertion. We are claiming that when Rutherford chose the name Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1931, it was the result of a revelation from God—albeit an uninspired one. The basis for the “secret” being revealed was Rutherford’s understanding of Isaiah 43:10. The speaker calls this a “Scriptural name”. That might be going a little far, don’t you think? After all, if you are bearing witness for me in a court case, and I say, “You are my witness”, does that mean I’ve given you a new name? Nonsense. I’ve merely described a role you are playing.
Nevertheless, let us grant them this in the spirit of Proverbs 26:5. If saying this to the Israelites gave them a “Scriptural name”, then what “Scriptural name” did Jehovah inspire Jesus to confer on Christians? Again, you be the judge: (Mat. 10:18; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:6; Rev. 1:9; 12:17; 17:6; 19:10; 20:4)
Given the overwhelming Scriptural evidence, our position on these first two refinements disqualifies them from being secrets, sacred or otherwise. They are the unscriptural assertions of men. The question is: Why are we being asked to believe that these teachings come as secret revelations from God?
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for ‘enlarging the fringes of the garments.’ (Mt 23:5) These fringes were mandated by the Mosaic law as a visible means of identification to keep the Israelites separate from the corrupting influence of the nations surrounding them. (Nu 15:38; De 22:12) Christians should be separate from the world, but that separateness is not based on false teaching. Our leadership isn’t as concerned about separateness from the world as they are about separateness from all other Christian religious sects. They have achieved that by deemphasizing Jesus’ pivotal role and over-emphasizing Jehovah’s name beyond anything he directed us in Scripture to do.
God’s sovereignty is the key issue, but it is not the Bible’s theme. We either obey God or we obey man, whether other men or one’s self. It is that easy. That’s the issue upon which everything is based. It is a simple and self-evident issue. The complexity derives from how that issue is to be resolved. The resolution of that issue became a sacred secret which was only revealed some 4,000 years after the events that put everything in motion.
Redefining that as we have changes the very nature of the good news we are to declare and changing the good news is a sin. (Ga 1:8)
Refinement #3: The Kingdom of God Was Established in 1914
Based on what the speaker explains, we must conclude that the revelation to Russell that the Kingdom of God was established in 1914 was a sacred secret progressively revealed. We say ‘progressively’ because Russell got it wrong, placing the presence in 1874 while the coming of the Christ in the great tribulation was to be in 1914. In 1929, a progressive revelation was made to Rutherford fixing 1914 as the start of Christ’s presence. If you believe that the current understanding is a revelation from God, perhaps you would like to examine what God’s word truly has to say about the importance of this year. Click here for a more detailed examination, or click the “1914” category on the left of this page for a complete listing of every post dealing with this topic.
Refinement #4: That There Are 144,000 Kingdom Heirs in Heaven
We used to think that the “other sheep” were also going to heaven as some sort of secondary class, ones who didn’t quite measure up because of being guilty of negligence in serving God. This wrong view was corrected by Rutherford in a talk in 1935. This is the fourth sacred secret which Jehovah has revealed to us through the Governing Body.
Unfortunately, Rutherford—as the then sole-member of the Governing Body having disbanded the editorial committee in 1931—“corrected” this wrong view with another wrong view that has held sway till this day. (Based on the historical evidence, “progressive” in JW vernacular means, “getting a teaching wrong repeatedly, but always accepting the latest definition as absolute truth”.)
Again, we have written extensively on this subject, so we will not repeat those arguments here. (For even more information, click the category “The Anointed”)
Refinement #5: Kingdom Illustrations.
Apparently, two illustrations were refined or clarified as part of the progressive revelation of sacred secrets, that of the Mustard Grain and that of the leaven. Prior to 2008, we believed these, and virtually all the Kingdom-of-God-is-like illustrations, related to Christendom. Now we apply them to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Here is where the ‘reader must use discernment’. According to the convention discourse’s theme scripture of Luke 8:10, Jesus spoke in illustrations to hide the truth from those unworthy of it.
The fact that we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been fed multiple re-interpretations of virtually all of Jesus’ illustrations should serve a warning to true Christians.
The Watchtower Index 1986-2013 has a section titled “Beliefs Clarified”. This is very misleading. When you clarify a liquid, you remove substances that cloud its transparency, but throughout the process, the core liquid remains the same. When you refine something, like sugar, you remove impurities and other elements, but again the core substance remains the same. However, in the case of these illustrations, we have changed the very substance of our understanding completely, and have done so several times, even reversing our interpretation several times, returning to previous understanding only to abandon them again.
How presumptuous of us to classify our bumbling attempts at interpretation as the progressive revelation of sacred secrets from Jehovah.
So there you have it. As you listen to this discourse for yourself, remember that Jesus revealed his sacred secrets 2,000 years ago to his true disciples. Remember also Paul’s exhortation for us not to be quickly shaken from our reason “by an inspired statement”, which is what the revelation from God of a sacred secret is. – 2 Th 2:2
[i] We don’t start calling them “regional conventions” until 2015.
[ii] It also does not occur in the Hebrew Scriptures in the NWT except in two footnotes.