Bible Study – Chapter 1 Par. 11-20
“A naive person believes everything, but the shrewd person discerns his steps.” Proverbs 14:15
Sleight of Hand
manual dexterity, typically in performing tricks.
“a nifty bit of sleight of hand got the ashtray into the correct position”
As Christians, we do not get involved in the political antics of this system of things, because our kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) Nevertheless, we can observe and learn. Last Monday’s presidential debate demonstrated what I like to call “verbal sleight-of-hand”. This is the ability to seemingly hide a lie in plain sight. The trick is to never admit you’re wrong, and never vary from your story. This may require you to rewrite history, and if so the tactic is to repeat the revised story over and over until it becomes a reality in the minds of your listeners. This doesn’t work for everyone, but as Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” It is often enough to fool some of the people all of the time, especially when “some of the people” constitutes a majority of the people.
Are you a naïve person or an independent critical thinker? Do you put blind trust in people, or do you do your due diligence by putting all you are told to the test?
It seems there are people who believe whatever their favorite politician tells them, no matter how outrageous his words and actions may be; no matter how transparently blatant his lies become. Sadly, this situation is not confined to the political arena.
This sleight-of-hand technique to teaching “the truth” has never been more evident than in the book we are currently studying at the weekly Christian Life and Ministry meeting.
When Would God’s Kingdom Be Established?
When asking about the timing of the establishment of God’s Kingdom, paragraph 11 cites Acts 1:6, indicating that the disciples were asking about the timing of Christ’s presence.
“So when they had assembled, they asked him: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”” (Ac 1:6)
Here, the magician is holding a truth in his right hand for all to see. However, his left hand holds another truth which he does not want the audience to witness. The very next verse says:
“He said to them: “It does not belong to you to know the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Ac 1:7)
The organization wishes us to believe that the kingdom of God was not restored in the first century, but it does not want us to know that the ability to foreknow the timing of the establishment of God’s kingdom has been denied to us by Jehovah himself. Watchtower teaching, however, would have us believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses knew not only the year but the very month in which God’s kingdom was established: October, 1914.
The magician’s hands have to keep moving rapidly so that the audience doesn’t focus on the hand that holds the truth. Thus in very next paragraph (12) we jump into a seemingly unrelated parable, that of the wheat and the weeds. The interpretation given to this parable is utterly devoid of Scriptural support. We are to believe what they say, because they say it. That seems to be the end of the matter. For example, we are to believe that the growing season for the wheat and weeds ran from 33 C.E. to 1914 C.E. Then the period of the “conclusion of the system of things” began. This would mean the system of things has been concluding for the past century.
The word that the NWT translates as “conclusion” really means “end” or “completion.” But an the end that lasts over a century doesn’t really seem like an end, so the New World Translation prefers to use the word “conclusion.” However, this doesn’t fit either because what they hide in their other hand are the details of the parable which speak of the weeds being gathered first, bundled to be burned, then the wheat is gathered. This would mean the Angels have been gathering and bundling weeds for the past 102 years. The wheat has yet to be gathered based on the sequence of this parable. This simply doesn’t fit.
So that we do not dwell on this, the magician’s hands are a blur, and we are moved in paragraph 13 to the parable of the minas. Here at last we get scriptural references to prove something. At least it seems that way if we only look at what the magician holds in his right hand. These three scriptures, Ps 110:1-2; Mt 22:43-44; He 10:12-13, all show that Jesus rules in waiting until his Father puts his enemies under his feet. For example, Mt 22:43-44 quotes Ps 110:1-2 which says,
“Jehovah declared to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand Until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.” Jehovah will extend the scepter of your power out of Zion, saying: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.”” (Ps 110:1-2)
We know from the Bible that Jesus sat at God’s right hand in 33 C.E.
“Therefore, because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’” (Ac 2:33-35)
Shortly thereafter, Stephen received a vision in which he saw the fulfillment of this Psalm.
“But he, being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand, 56 and he said: “Look! I see the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.”” (Ac 7:55-56)
So when does the Father subdue his enemies? According to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, this occurred in 1914.
“Following his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and waited at God’s right hand until 1914 to begin ruling as King. During that time, Jesus ruled over his anointed followers, guiding them in their preaching and disciple-making work as well as preparing them to rule with him in his Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 22:28-30.” (w06 9/1 p. 13 par. 6)
According to paragraph 19 of this study, there is clear evidence of this fact in the world. No clear evidence is presented however. But our main concern should be for what the organization is holding in the other hand while making this pronouncement.
What they are not showing us, is the rest of the parable. The slaves who worked with the minas are rewarded by being appointed over cities. Each faithful slave started with some coins, and ended up governing over cities based on how well he did with the money given him. Did this happen in 1914? Additionally, the enemies that opposed the king are brought before him and slaughtered.
“Moreover, bring these enemies of mine here who did not want me to become king over them and execute them in front of me.’”” (Lu 19:27)
Did this happen in 1914?
By making the establishment of the kingdom a separate event from the coming of the kingdom, the organization is making mincemeat of the parable of the minas.
When Will God’s Kingdom Come?
The dexterity of a really good magician is so great that at times the audience doesn’t know what they are seeing. The goal is to keep the eye confused so that the truth behind the trick is not revealed. In the next paragraph of our study, paragraph 14, the real meaning of words gets blurred to the point of nonsense. Consider:
“The start of his presence would coincide with the establishment of the Kingdom; and the culmination of his presence, with the coming of the Kingdom.” – Par. 14
According to our publications, the presence of Christ is the time he starts to rule as King.[i] Therefore, based on the theology of the Organization, saying Christ’s presence began in 1914 is the same as saying, Christ began ruling in 1914. Let us now say, purely for the sake of argument, that the kingdom will come in 2030. Based on the logic from paragraph 14, the kingdom was established in 1914 and the kingdom will come in 2030. Christ presence began in 1914 and Christ presence will end in 2030. Jesus began ruling as King in 1914 and Jesus will stop ruling as King in 2030, when his presence ends.
It would not do well for us to dwell on such head-spinning logic for too long. Therefore, the writer wisely switches gears.
In paragraph 15, we get into the latest iteration of the doctrine of “this generation”[ii] taken from Matthew 24:34.
For over one hundred years, a series of misinterpretations of Matthew 24:34, starting with C. T. Russell and continuing throughout the twentieth century resulted in untold disillusionment and loss of faith for naïve believers of the doctrines of the leaders of the Society.[iii] (I confess to being one of them.) Then in the mid-90s we got this relief:
w95 11/1 p. 17 par. 6 A Time to Keep Awake
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.
Like the aforementioned presidential candidate, there is no willingness here to accept responsibility, or even to admit a mistake was made by the ones who actually made it. Blame is shifted to all of Jehovah’s witnesses. Still, hope rose that those who claimed to be the faithful and discreet slave were finally living up to the “discrete” (i.e., wise) part of the name. It did seem, after all, impossible to come up with any other interpretation of the word “generation” that could be made to serve the task at hand – that is, to create a false or artificial sense of urgency. After so many disappointments, it did not seem too much to ask that those who presume to take the lead among us would at least learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.
Alas, this did not prove to be the case. Seven years ago the doctrine was reborn in the form of a hybrid generation. This new definition requires us to accept that two distinct generations spanning a period of over a century can be combined to form a single generation. For example, by this definition, soldiers fighting under Napoleon in 1812 are part of the same generation as soldiers who fought in the first world war of 1914 – a span of 102 years.
Since such a definition is unique and unscriptural, the publishers have seen fit to provide us with an illustration so that we might better understand it.
Not wanting us to doubt the importance of this, paragraph 19 states:
“Well, we know that the sign of Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power is clearly evident around the globe.” – par. 19
Clearly evident? Exactly what is the evidence which is so clear? In many ways the world is a far safer and more prosperous place than it was 102 years ago. Would any of us prefer to live at any time from 1914 to, say, 1950? Those are times of war, famine, economic upheaval, disease, inadequate or non-existent healthcare, poor education, and the list goes on. It seems that the magician is trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
“We also see that the anointed ones who are still alive and part of “this generation” are getting on in years; yet, they will not all die off before the great tribulation begins. Therefore, we can conclude that very soon indeed God’s Kingdom will come and exercise its rule over the earth! How thrilling it will be to witness the fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Let your Kingdom come”!” – par. 19
Why are many Jehovah’s Witnesses so ready to believe these things? Why are they willing to once again jump on the “generation” bandwagon? Is it that they are so desperate for the end of the system of things to come that they will believe anything they are told? Or perhaps it is that so much as been invested, sometimes an entire lifetime, that the thought that it all might be for nothing is more than some can bear? Like the gambler down to his last dollar, they are all in believing the next card will be the winner. This is not real faith. This is merely faith in men. (Ps 146:3)
“. . .Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Pr 14:15)
The irony of the concluding paragraph of this week’s study will not escape the critical thinker.
“Let us never forget the words that Jehovah himself spoke from heaven regarding his Son: “Listen to him.” As true Christians, we are eager to heed that divine direction. We are keenly interested in everything that Jesus said and taught about God’s Kingdom.” – par. 20
Yes, true Christians are eager to listen to Jesus, but many Jehovah’s Witnesses have proven that they are more eager to listen to the not so artfully contrived false stories of their leadership. This cannot result in success for them.
[i] it-2 p. 678 Presence
Since Jesus’ kingship includes the whole earth, his presence is a global one (compare Mt 24:23-27, 30) and Paul’s inspired words at 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, as well as references to Christ’s reign in Revelation (5:8-10; 7:17; 19:11-16; 20:1-6; 21:1-4, 9, 10, 22-27), imply that Christ’s presence is the time for him to direct his full attention to the whole earth and its population, bringing the full force of his kingly power to bear so as to accomplish his Father’s will for the earth and its inhabitants.