“But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light That grows brighter and brighter until full daylight.” (Pr 4:18 NWT)

Another way to cooperate with Christ’s “brothers” is to have a positive attitude toward any refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths as published by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (w11 5/15 p. 27 Following Christ, the Perfect Leader)

Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that Proverbs 4:18 applies not to the spiritual development of the individual—which is the more obvious read—but to the means by which truth is revealed to the flock of God. Terms such as “present truth” and “new truth” were in vogue in the past to describe this process. More common today are terms such as “new light”, “new understanding”, “adjustment”, and “refinement”. The latter is sometimes modified by the adjective “progressive” since the tautology tends to reinforce the idea that these changes are always for the better. (See “Progressive Refinements” in Watchtower Index, dx86-13 under Jehovah’s Organization)
As our opening quote shows, JWs are told that by maintaining “a positive attitude toward any refinements” they are “following Christ, the perfect leader”.
There can be no question that any faithful and obedient Christian wants to follow Christ. However, the foregoing quotation raises a serious question: Does Jesus Christ reveal truth by means of doctrinal adjustments or refinements? Or to put it another way—a way that fits with the reality of the JW Organization: Does Jehovah reveal truths laced with falsehoods that He later strips away?
Before attempting an answer, let us first determine exactly what “a refinement” is?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the following definition:

  • the act or process of removing unwanted substances from something; the act or process of making something pure.
  • The act or process of improving something
  • the improved version of something

A good example of the refining process – one to which all of us can relate – is that which converts raw cane sugar into the white crystals we use in our coffee and pastries.
Putting all this together gives us a logical line of reasoning which virtually every Jehovah’s Witness will subscribe to. It goes like this: Since Jehovah (through Jesus) uses the Governing Body to instruct us, it follows that any changes in our understanding of Scripture are refinements which come from God. If we are using the term “refinement” correctly, then as is the case with sugar, each progressive scriptural refinement removes impurities (false understandings) to reveal more of the pure truth that was already there.
Let us illustrate this process graphically by examining the “progressive refinements” which have led us to our current understanding of Matthew 24:34. If the meaning of refinement has been properly applied, we should be able to demonstrate that what we now believe is either the whole truth or very close to it – having now stripped away most, if not all of the impurities.

Refinements to Our Understanding of “This Generation”

When I was a child of five or six I remember thinking that I did not have to worry about surviving Armageddon, because I would be able to get through on the coattails of my parents. So much in the forefront was our belief back then that Armageddon was just around the corner that a 1st grader like myself was actually concerned for his own survival. Clearly not something a young child normally thinks about.
Many children of that era were told they would never graduate from school before the end came. Young adults were admonished not to marry, and newly married couples were looked down on for starting a family. The reason for this overwhelming confidence that the end was near stemmed from the belief that the generation that saw the beginning of the last days[i] in 1914 was made up of people old enough to understand what was going on at that time. The general consensus then was that such ones would have been young adults at the time the First World War broke out and would therefore already be in their 60s by the mid-1950s.
Let us characterize this doctrinal understanding graphically by depicting it as dark brown sugar not yet fully refined.[ii]


Brown sugar with molasses impurities represents our doctrinal starting point.

Refinement #1: The general starting age for members of “this generation” was lowered to any old enough to remember the events, which made it possible for preteen children to be part of the group. However, babies and infants were still excluded.

However, there are people still living who were alive in 1914 and saw what was happening then and who were old enough that they still remember those events. (w69 2/15 p. 101 The Last Days of This Wicked System of Things)

Thus, when it comes to the application in our time, the “generation” logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ’s followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus’ composite “sign.” Some of such persons “will by no means pass away until” all of what Christ prophesied occurs, including the end of the present wicked system. (w78 10/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers)


By the late 70s, some of the impurities are gone and the starting age is lowered to extend the time frame.

By lowering the starting age from adults to preteens, we bought ourselves an extra decade. Still, the core doctrine remained: People witnessing the events of 1914 would see the end.
Refinement #2: “This generation” refers to anyone born in 1914 or before would survive to Armageddon. This helps us to know how close the end is.

If Jesus used “generation” in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80’s or 90’s, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them “will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:32.
(w84 5/15 p. 5 1914—The Generation That Will Not Pass Away)


All impurities are gone. With the starting age reduced to date-of-birth, the time frame is maxed out.

Altering our understanding that members of the generation did not have to “see” the events of 1914 but merely had to be alive during that time bought us yet another decade. At the time, this “refinement” made sense because many of us were members of the “Baby Boomer” generation, whose membership stemmed simply from being born during a given time period.
Please remember now that according to our teaching, each of these “refinements” comes from our perfect Leader, Jesus Christ. He was progressively revealing truth to us, stripping away impurities.
Refinement #3: “This generation” refers to opposing Jews in Jesus day. It is not a reference to a period of time. It cannot be used to calculate how close we are to Armageddon counting from 1914.

Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s people have at times speculated about the time when the “great tribulation” would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However, we “bring a heart of wisdom in,” not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation, but by thinking about how we “count our days” in bringing joyful praise to Jehovah. (Psalm 90:12) Rather than provide a rule for measuring time, the term “generation” as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.
(w95 11/1 p. 17 par. 6 A Time to Keep Awake)

So the recent information in The Watchtower about “this generation” did not change our understanding of what occurred in 1914. But 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.
(w97 6/1 p. 28 Questions From Readers)

“What did Jesus mean by “generation,” both in his day and in ours?
Many scriptures confirm that Jesus did not use “generation” with regard to some small or distinct group, meaning only the Jewish leaders or only his loyal disciples. Rather, he used “generation” in condemning the masses of Jews who rejected him. Happily, though, individuals could do what the apostle Peter urged on the day of Pentecost, repent and “get saved from this crooked generation.”—Acts 2:40.
(w97 6/1 p. 28 Questions From Readers)

When, though, would the end come? What did Jesus mean when he said: ‘This generation [Greek, ge·ne·a´] will not pass away’? Jesus had often called the contemporaneous mass of opposing Jews, including religious leaders, ‘a wicked, adulterous generation.’ (Matthew 11:16; 12:39, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36) So when, on the Mount of Olives, he again spoke of “this generation,” he evidently did not mean the entire race of Jews throughout history; nor did he mean his followers, even though they were “a chosen race.” (1 Peter 2:9) Neither was Jesus saying that “this generation” is a period of time.
13 Rather, Jesus had in mind the opposing Jews back then who would experience the fulfillment of the sign he gave. Regarding the reference to “this generation” at Luke 21:32, Professor Joel B. Green notes: “In the Third Gospel, ‘this generation’ (and related phrases) has regularly signified a category of people who are resistant to the purpose of God. . . . [It refers] to people who stubbornly turn their backs on the divine purpose.”
(w99 5/1 p. 11 pars. 12-13 “These Things Must Take Place”)


All the original “truth” of the doctrine has been refined away by the mid-1990s, leaving our vessel empty

It would seem that the past “refinements” were not from Jesus after all. Instead, they were the result of speculation on the part of “Jehovah’s people”. Not the faithful and discreet slave. Not the Governing Body. No!  The fault rests squarely at the feet of the rank and file. Realizing that the calculations were all wrong, we completely abandon our former doctrine. It does not apply to the wicked generation of the last days, but to the opposing Jews who lived in Jesus’ day. It has no relation to the last days, and it is not intended to serve as a means to measure how long the last days will be.
Thus we have refined away everything and are left with an empty vessel.
Refinement #4: “This generation” refers to anointed Christians alive during 1914 whose lives while anointed overlap with other anointed Christians who will be alive when Armageddon comes.

We understand that in mentioning “this generation,” Jesus was referring to two groups of anointed Christians. The first group was on hand in 1914, and they readily discerned the sign of Christ’s presence in that year. Those who made up this group were not merely alive in 1914, but they were spirit anointed as sons of God in or before that year-Rom. 8:14-17.
16 The second group included in “this generation” are anointed contemporaries of the first group. They were not simply alive during the lifetime of those in the first group, but they were anointed with Holy Spirit during the time that those of the first group were still on earth. Thus, not every anointed person today is included in “this generation” of whom Jesus spoke. Today, those in the second group are themselves advancing in years. Yet, Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:34 give us confidence that at least some of “this generation will by no means pass away” before seeing the start of the great tribulation. This should add to our conviction that little time remains before the King of God’s Kingdom acts to destroy the wicked and usher in a righteous New World.
(w14 01/15 p. 31 “Let Your Kingdom Come” But When?)

How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? He evidently meant that the lives of the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation.
(w10 4/15 p. 10 par. 14 Holy Spirit’s Role in the Outworking of Jehovah’s Purpose)

By the start of the 21st century nothing remains of the original doctrine, nor of the 1990s doctrinal reversal.  The members of the generation are no longer the wicked living during the last days, nor are they the opposing mass of Jews during Jesus’ time.  Now they are only anointed Christians. Moreover, they consist of two distinct yet overlapping groups. We have completely reinvented the doctrine so that we can meet our goal of conditioning the rank-and-file with a sense of urgency. Most regrettably, to accomplish this goal, the Governing Body has succumbed to making stuff up.
To illustrate, I was 19 years old when my grandmother died. She was already an adult with two children when the First World War began. If I were to go from door to door and preach that I am a member of the generation that suffered through World War I, I would be taken for a fool at the very least. Yet that is precisely what the Governing Body is telling 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe. To make matters worse—far worse—absolutely no scriptural evidence has been given in support of this new “refinement”.


The fabrication of this new doctrine can best be illustrated by replacing refined sugar with artificial sweetener.

If you refine sugar, you would not expect to end up with a sugar substitute. Yet in effect that is exactly what we have done. We have substituted a truth, clearly stated by Jesus Christ, with something fabricated by men to achieve a purpose never intended by our Lord.
The Bible speaks of men who use “smooth talk and complimentary speech [to] seduce the hearts of guileless ones.” (Ro 16:18) Abraham Lincoln said: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Perhaps with the best of intentions, our leadership did fool all of its people for some of the time. But that time is over. Many are waking up to the fact that words like “refinement” and “adjustment” have been misappropriated to cover up gross human error. They would have us believe fabricated doctrine as scriptural refinements of truth from God.

In Conclusion

Let us return to our opening quotation:

Another way to cooperate with Christ’s “brothers” is to have a positive attitude toward any refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths as published by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (w11 5/15 p. 27 Following Christ, the Perfect Leader)

Everything about this sentence is wrong. The idea of cooperating with Christ’s brothers is based on the premise that the rest of us, the so-called “other sheep”, are a separate group that is required to cooperate with an elite group for our own salvation.
Then, with a title like, “Following Christ, the Perfect Leader”, we are given to understand that Jesus reveals truth via a refinement process. This is completely inconsistent with Scripture. Truth is always revealed as truth. It never contains impurities which have to be refined out later. The impurities have always been introduced by men, and where there are impurities there is falsehood. Therefore the phrase, “refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths” is oxymoronic.
Even the fact that we are to have a positive attitude toward such refinements published by “the faithful and discreet slave” is itself an impurity.  Our latest “refinement” of Matthew 24:45 requires us to accept that the Governing Body is the embodiment of “the faithful and discreet slave.” This introduces a nifty little bit of circular reasoning. How are we to have a positive attitude toward any refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths as published by the faithful and discreet slave if the identity of the faithful and discreet slave is itself part of a refinement?
Rather than obey this directive from those who have taken upon themselves the title of “faithful and discreet slave”, let us obey instead the directive of our true leader, Jesus Christ, as expressed by faithful Bible writers in such passages as follows:

“. . .Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thes·sa·lo·ni′ca, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Ac 17:11 NWT)

“. . .Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired statement, but test the inspired statements to see whether they originate with God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1Jo 4:1 NTW)

“. . .Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” (1Th 5:21 NWT)

From now on, let us view the use of words such as “refinement”, “adjustment”, “undoubtedly”, and “evidently” as red flags indicating that it is again time to pull out our Bibles and prove for ourselves the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2
[i] There is now significant reason to believe that the last days did not begin in 1914. For an analysis of this topic as it relates to the official doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses see “Wars and Reports of Wars-A Red Herring?
[ii] Admittedly commercial brown sugar is made from white refined sugar to which molasses has been added. However, naturally occurring brown sugar is a result of unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content. This is termed “natural brown sugar”. However, for purposes of illustration only and due to availability we will be using commercially purchased brown sugar products. We ask only that some literary license be granted us.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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