[From ws15/08 p. 24 for Oct. 19 -25]
“Bad associations spoil useful habits.” – 1Co 15:33
The Last Days
“The Bible calls the era that began in 1914 ‘the last days.’” – par. 1
Since the article starts out with a categorical statement, it seems only fair that we should make one of our own.
“The Bible does not call the era that began in 1914 ‘the last days.’”
Which statement is true? Unlike the article, we will now provide scriptural support for our assertion.
The phrase “last days” occurs four times in the Christian Scriptures at Acts 2:17-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; James 5:3; and 2 Peter 3:3.
The paragraph refers to 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Whenever we use this passage to support the JW view of the last days, we stop at verse 5. That’s because the next two verses tend to undermine our belief that the last days only started in 1914. There, Paul is referring to conditions within the Christian congregation, conditions which succeeding generations of Christians down through the ages would face.
Likewise, both James 5:3 and 2 Peter 3:3 make no sense if we think they can only apply to our day. Nevertheless, the most convincing piece of evidence that the last days did not start in 1914 is found at Acts 2:17-21. There, Peter refers to the events that his audience was witnessing and uses them to prove they were seeing the fulfillment of Joel’s Last Days prophecy.
While Peter makes the start of the last days then, in the first century, he also shows that Joel’s words make the end. He refers to signs in the heavens—the sun turning to darkness, the moon to blood, and the arrival of the “great and illustrious day of the Lord.” Now that sounds an awful lot like what Jesus spoke of at Matthew 24:29, 30 when speaking about his return, does it not?
It would therefore seem that the last days are concurrent with the Christian Era. They began with events marking the initial calling of the Children of God which all creation had been awaiting for thousands of years, and they end with the final ones of their number being gathered. (Ro 8:16-19; Mt 24:30, 31)
Critical Times, Hard to Deal with
The first paragraph continues with another categorical falsehood.
“These ‘critical times hard to deal with’ are marked by conditions that are far worse than any experienced by mankind prior to that climactic year.”
This statement ignores the facts of history. The dark ages were far worse than anything the eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses studying this week’s article have ever experienced. Take, for instance, the time period covered by the 100 Years War and the Black Death. Imagine a century of war followed by the bubonic plague. The plague affected all of Europe, parts of Africa, and spread through the orient to Asia and China. Imagine living in Europe at a time when one out of every three people died from the Black Death, not to count those killed by the sword. Believe it or not, those are conservative estimates. Other researchers put the number of dead in Europe at 60% of the population, and claim that the world population dropped by 25% as a result.[i]
Can you picture that? Now think of your own life experience. Only by turning a blind eye to the events of history can Jehovah’s Witnesses be led to believe that our day is marked by “conditions far worse than any experienced by mankind prior to 1914”. To anyone in the know, this statement is outrageous.
It is not only ancient history we must be ignorant of. We must also turn a blind eye to our own history.
“Moreover, the world will continue to deteriorate, for Bible prophecy foretold that ‘wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.’”— 2 Tim 3:13.
We still can’t get past the article’s first paragraph, because here is yet another false statement to deal with. First of all, the article is misquoting 2 Timothy 3:13. By rights, it should have included an ellipsis after “from bad to worse” because the full verse reads:
“But wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2Ti 3:13)
This is still part of Paul’s warning to Timothy about conditions that mark the “last days”. Therefore, he is still talking about the Christian congregation, not the world at large. Since the start of the 20th century, world conditions have worsened and then improved and then worsened again and then improved even more. However, since Paul’s day and down through to our time “wicked men and impostors” in the Christian congregation have continued to “advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” The congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is but one case in point. So Paul wasn’t giving us a sign by which we could measure how close we are to Christ’s return. He makes no mention of Christ’s return. What he is actually warning us about is being misled by wicked men. (See also 2Ti 3:6, 7)
“Bad Associations Spoil Useful Habits”
Finally we get beyond the first paragraph.
One cannot argue with a plainly stated truth like that found at 1 Corinthians 15:33. Given that, what constitutes a bad association?
“Although we want to be kind even to those who do not follow God’s laws, we should not become their intimate associates or close friends. It would therefore be wrong for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is a single person to date such an individual who is not dedicated and faithful to God and who does not respect His high standards. Maintaining Christian integrity is far more important than becoming popular with people who do not live by Jehovah’s laws. Our close associates should be those who do God’s will. Jesus said: ‘Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother and sister and mother.’”— Mark 3:35.
The principle stated here is that we should not become close friends, let alone marry anyone, who does not follow God’s laws, does not respect His high standards, and does not maintain Christian integrity. It is more important to keep integrity than to be popular with people who do not live by Jehovah’s laws.
Well and good. One of Jehovah’s foremost laws is the very first of the Ten Commandments: “You must not have any other gods besides me.” A god is someone whom we obey implicitly and unquestioningly. Therefore, when commanded to stop preaching, Peter and the apostles stated, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
Could it be that Jehovah’s Witnesses have just qualified themselves as bad associations? After all, if someone among them points out that a teaching of the Governing Body is unscriptural and attempts to demonstrate this using the Bible, that one is cast out and cut off from family and friends.
There are many of us now who continue to associate with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, it is not the Organization we associate with, but individuals. That is why we will refuse to fellowship with some former friends and associates who, while they may even be elders in the congregation, do not follow God’s law about obeying Him over men, and who thus do not maintain Christian integrity. Such ones appear to men as ministers of righteousness, but their unloving works often manifested by the way they have abused the “little ones” demonstrate that they are bad association. (2Co 11:15; Lu 17:1, 2; Mt 7:15-20)
There are those among Jehovah’s Witnesses who know that some of our teachings are false, but who choose to teach them anyway from the platform or in the field ministry. Why? Because of fear of man. They want to remain “popular with people who do not live by Jehovah’s laws.” On the other hand, a growing number are keeping their Christian integrity even though it means being persecuted by fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses, just as Peter and the other apostles were persecuted by fellow Jews. Sometimes the persecution takes the form of slander and character assassination. Other times, it gravitates toward being cut off from everyone we hold dear.
Disfellowshipping is now used as a weapon of darkness in much the same way at the ancient Catholic church used excommunication. (See “A Weapon of Darkness” for details.)
Marry “Only in the Lord”
The question has come up among those of us who are still single and who have awakened to this new spiritual reality, “How am I now to marry only in the Lord.” Prior to this, the answer was simple: Marry another Jehovah’s Witness. However, now what do we do?
There is no easy answer, but I would put it to you that the Watchtower has given us, albeit unwittingly, a direct answer. “Our close associates should be those who do God’s will.” One might look for a suitable mate among Jehovah’s Witnesses (or elsewhere) and then see if he or she is willing to abandon the false teachings that separate him from Christ. (John 4:23) If so, if the individual is willing to obey God as ruler over men even if it means suffering the reproach of the Christ—the disdain of the congregation—then one may well have found a suitable mate in the Lord. (He 11:26; Mt 16:24)
There are many fine individuals among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Good men and women trying to display Christian qualities of love, honesty, and virtue. There are also many individuals who have a form of godly devotion, but prove false to its power. (See 2Ti 3:5. We are still in the last days after all.) The same can be said about members of other religions. The dividing line that Jehovah’s Witnesses cling to is the belief that they alone have the truth. I once thought that way, but independent Bible study has taught me that all the core beliefs that make Witnesses unique are based on the teachings of men and have no foundation in Scripture. Thus, while different in many ways from most other Christian religions, Witnesses are the same in that key element of submission to the teachings and traditions of men over God and his Word.
Associate with Those Who Love Jehovah
The purpose of this article is to convince Jehovah’s Witnesses to remain separate from the world and the “false” religions surrounding them. The final paragraph reinforces this mindset:
“As worshippers of Jehovah, we need to imitate Noah and his family and obedient first-century Christians. We must keep separate from the wicked system of things around us and seek upbuilding associates among the millions of our faithful brothers and sisters….If we watch our associations in these last days, we may personally live right through the end of this evil system and into Jehovah’s righteous new world now so near at hand!”
The idea is that our salvation is not gained personally, but is a consequence of remaining inside the ark-like Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Oh, that it were that easy! But just as well that it isn’t.
[i] See Wikipedia for links to outside sources.