Bible Study – Chapter 2 Par. 1-12
The question for the opening two paragraphs of this week’s study asks: “What was the greatest event ever to occur in world history…?” While this is a highly subjective question, one might well excuse a Christian for answering: The Coming of the Messiah!
However, that is not the answer the paragraph is looking for. The correct answer apparently is the invisible establishment of the kingdom of Christ in 1914.
Let’s think about this for a moment from the viewpoint of JW theology. Last week we learned that Christ began ruling as king in 33 C.E. when he went to heaven to sit at God’s right hand waiting for his Father to subdue his enemies for him. (Ps 110:1-2; He 10:12-13) However, according to the publications of the Society, that rule was only over the congregation. Then, in 1914, the kingdom was “established” in the heavens and Christ began ruling over the world. However, his enemies have not been subdued. In fact, they are largely unaware of this “greatest event ever to occur in world history.” False religion still rules the world. The nations are far more powerful than ever before, capable now of eradicating all life on the planet in a matter of hours.
One might well ask, “What has changed since 33 C.E.? What exactly did Jehovah do in 1914 that would qualify as “establishing the kingdom” that hadn’t already been accomplished in the first century? Where are the visible manifestations of the “greatest event of human history”? It would seem it was a fizzle!
The publications like to talk about 1914 as the year in which the kingdom was “established”. The first definition for the word “establish” is “to set up (an organization, system, or set of rules) on a firm or permanent basis.” From what Hebrews 10:12-13 says, it appears that the kingdom was established in 33 C. E. Was there another organization, system, or set of rules firmly established in heaven in 1914? Consider this: Is there a higher position in all the universe than to sit at the right hand of God? Can any King, President, or Emperor claim more power and status than the King who sits at God’s right hand? That happened to Jesus and it happened in 33 C.E.
So is it not both reasonable and scriptural to say that Jesus began ruling as king in the first century? That the nations would be allowed to continue ruling for a time during his kingship is confirmed by Hebrews 10:13.
The sequence is: 1) Our King sits at God’s right hand waiting for his enemies to be subdued, and 2) his enemies are eventually subdued so that his rule can fill the earth. There are just two steps or phases. This is confirmed by Daniel the Prophet.
“You looked on until a stone was cut out, not by hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and of clay and crushed them. 35 At that time the iron, the clay, the copper, the silver, and the gold were, all together, crushed and became like the chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a large mountain, and it filled the whole earth.” (Da 2:34, 35)
The first two verses we are considering describe Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. There are two events of significance: 1) a stone was cut out of the mountain, and 2) it destroys the statue.
“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever, 45 just as you saw that out of the mountain a stone was cut not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the copper, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The Grand God has made known to the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.” (Da 2:44, 45)
These next two verses provide us with the interpretation of the dream described in verses 34 and 35: 1) The stone represents the establishment of God’s kingdom during the time that the kings represented by the various elements of the statue are still in existence; and 2) God’s kingdom destroys all of those kings at some point in time after it is set up or “established”.
In Psalm 110, Hebrews 10, and Daniel 2, only two events are described. There is no room for a third event. However, between the first century establishment of the Kingdom and the final war with the nations, Jehovah’s Witnesses try to sandwich in a third event—a sort of enhanced establishment of the kingdom. Kingdom 2.0 in modern parlance.
“My Messenger . . . Will Clear Up a Way Before Me”
For paragraphs 3-5, the questions to be answered are:
- “Who was “the messenger of the covenant” mentioned in Malachi 3:1?”
- “What would happen before “the messenger of the covenant” would come to the temple?”
Now if you are a real Bible student, you’d likely use the cross references found in the NWT and other Bibles to will take you to Matthew 11:10. There Jesus is speaking of John the Baptist. He says, “This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way ahead of you!’”
Jesus is quoting from Malachi 3:1, so you can safely answer the (b) question by saying “John the Baptist”. Alas, the conductor is not likely to accept that as the right answer, at least not according to the book God’s Kingdom Rules.
Notice that in Malachi 3:1, Jehovah is speaking of three distinct roles: 1) the messenger sent to clear the way before the appearance of 2) the true Lord, and 3) the messenger of the covenant. Since Jesus tells us that John the Baptist was the messenger sent to clear the way, it follows that Jesus is the true Lord. (Re 17:14; 1Co 8:6) However, Jesus also bears the role of the messenger of the covenant. (Luke 1:68-73; 1Co 11:25) So Jesus fills both the second and third roles foretold by Malachi.
As we look at the rest of Malachi’s prophecy, it becomes obvious to any student of Bible history that Jesus fulfilled all these words by his work during his 3½ year ministry. He did indeed come to the temple – the literal temple, not some fictional “earthly courtyard” – and as Malachi prophesied, he did indeed perform a cleansing work of the sons of Levi. He brought about a new covenant and as a result of his cleansing work, a new priestly class was brought into existence, the spiritual sons of Levi, or as Paul puts it to the Galatians, “the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16)
Lamentably, none of this benefits an Organization looking for scriptural justification of its own existence. They seek a Bible endorsement for their ‘their place and their nation.’ (John 11:48) So they have come up with a secondary fulfillment—a now-disavowed antitypical fulfillment—not mentioned anywhere in Scripture.[i] In this fulfillment, the temple isn’t really the temple, but a part never mentioned in the Bible, the “earthly courtyard”. Also, though Jehovah is speaking about the true Lord, he’s not referring to Jesus, but to himself. Jesus is left as the messenger of the covenant, having had his “true Lord” status revoked by Watchtower doctrine. Instead, we are to believe that the messenger who prepares the way is C. T. Russell and his associates.
The rest of the study is devoted to “proving” that Russell and his close associates fulfill the alleged secondary fulfillment of Malachi’s words concerning the messenger that clears the way. This is based on the belief that by freeing the Bible students of the false belief in the Trinity, the immortality of the human soul, and Hell Fire, these men were preparing the way for the true Lord, Jehovah, and the messenger of the covenant, Jesus Christ, to inspect the earthly courtyard of the temple following 1914.
Most witnesses reading this will come to believe that only the Bible students were freed of these doctrines. A simple internet search will reveal a list of Christian denominations which reject some or all of these doctrines as well. Be that as it may, if we are to accept the premise that freeing oneself from false doctrine constitutes a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, then Russell cannot be our man.
John the Baptist was undeniably the messenger that cleared the way, based on Jesus’ own words at Matthew 11:10. He was also the greatest man of his age. (Mt 11:11) Was Russell a fitting modern-day counterpart to John the Baptist? Admittedly, he started out well. As a young man, he was influenced by Adventist ministers George Storrs and George Stetson and from his early studies with a group of dedicated Bible students, he freed himself of such false doctrines as a triune God, eternal torment in Hell, and the immortal human soul. It seems he also rejected prophetic chronology in his early years. If he had stayed that course, who knows what might have resulted. That a faithful course of adherence to the truth would constitute a secondary fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 is another question entirely, but even allowing for such an interpretation, Russell and associates did not fit the bill. Why can we say that with such confidence? Because we have the record of history to go by.
Here is a quote from the 1910 edition of Studies in the Scriptures Vol 3. Regarding the pyramid of Giza, which Russell called “the Bible in Stone”, we read:
“So, then, if we measure backward down the “First Ascending Passage” to its junction with the “Entrance Passage,” we shall have a fixed date to mark upon the downward passage. This measure is 1542 inches, and indicates the year BC 1542, as the date at that point. Then measuring down the “Entrance Passage” from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the “Pit,” representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown from power, we find it to be 3457 inches, symbolizing 3457 years from the above date, BC 1542. This calculation shows AD. 1915 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years BC plus 1915 years AD. equals 3457 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1914 will be the beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation — no, nor ever shall be afterward. And thus it will be noted that this “Witness” fully corroborates the’ Bible testimony on this subject…”
Besides the ludicrous idea that God encoded Bible chronology into the fabrication of an Egyptian pyramid, we have the outrageous teaching that a nation steeped in paganism should be the source of divine revelation. Russell’s unbroken chain of failed chronological predictions would be enough to discredit him and associates as the modern-day John the Baptist, but should any doubt remain, surely their dalliance into paganism—the sun-god Horus symbol festoons the cover of Studies in the Scriptures—should be more than enough for us to see that the Governing Body’s interpretation of Malachi 3:1 is bunk.
Sure of itself, the book continues saying:
“As its full title suggested, the journal Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence was deeply concerned with prophecies pertaining to Christ’s presence. The faithful anointed writers who contributed to that journal saw that Daniel’s prophecy regarding the “seven times” had a bearing on the timing of the fulfillment of God’s purposes regarding the Messianic Kingdom. As early as the 1870’s, they pointed to 1914 as the year when those seven times would end. (Dan. 4:25; Luke 21:24) Although our brothers of that era did not yet grasp the full significance of that marked year, they proclaimed what they knew far and wide, with long-lasting effects.” – par. 10
All but a tiny minority of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world are going to read this paragraph and understand it to mean that Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence was heralding the 1914 invisible presence of Christ. In truth, the magazine was heralding a presence they thought had already begun in 1874. The article, 1914 in Context, demonstrates that the so-called Bible-based chronology of the Bible Students upon which so much of our current doctrine is based is a long succession of failed fictional interpretation. To say, as the paragraph does, that “our brothers of that era did not yet grasp the full significance of that marked year” is like saying that the Catholic Church of the middle ages did not yet grasp the full significance of their teaching that the earth is the center of the universe. Truly, we can now say that the full significance of the Bible Students belief in 1914 as a marked year is that their entire belief system is based on a fiction for which there is no basis in Scripture.
What makes this all the worse is that they claim Jehovah God is responsible for it all.
“Above all, he [Russell] gave credit to Jehovah God, the one responsible for teaching His people what they need to know when they need to know it.” – par. 11
Are we to believe that Jehovah taught his people the fiction of the 1874 presence of Christ because that’s what they needed to know then? Are we to believe that he deceived them with the false teaching that 1914 would be the start of the great tribulation—a teaching that was only abandoned in 1969—because they needed to know that fiction? Does Jehovah mislead his children? Does the Almighty lie to his little ones?
What a horrible thing to claim, yet we are left with that conclusion if we are to accept what paragraph 11 says.
How should we feel about such things? Should we just slough it off as the failings of imperfect men? Should we “not make a big deal about it”? Paul said, “Who is not stumbled, and I am not incensed?” We should be angry about these things. Deception on a massive scale leading men astray! When some realize the extent of the deception, what will they do? Many will leave God entirely; become stumbled. This is not speculation. A quick scan of internet forums shows that there are many thousands who have fallen by the wayside at the realization that they’ve been misled all their lives. These ones incorrectly blame God, but is that not because they’ve been told God is responsible for all these teachings?
It would appear that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in the past two studies. We will see what next week brings us.
“Who is to decide if a person or an event is a type if the word of God doesn’t say anything about it? Who is qualified to do that? Our answer? We can do no better than to quote our beloved brother Albert Schroeder who said, “We need to exercise great care when applying accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures as prophetic patterns or types if these accounts are not applied in the Scriptures themselves.” Wasn’t that a beautiful statement? We agree with it.” (See 2:13 mark of video)
Then, around the 2:18 mark, Splane gives the example of one brother Arch W. Smith who loved the belief we once held in the significance of pyramids. However, then the 1928 Watchtower nullified that doctrine, he accepted the change because, to quote Splane, “he let reason win out over emotion.” Splane then continues to say, “In recent times, the trend in our publications has been to look for the practical application of events and not for types where the Scriptures themselves do not clearly identify them as such. We simply cannot go beyond what is written.”