Bible Study – Chapter 2 Par. 13-22

The study opens up with this line of reasoning.

“Consider this: Would people have been prepared for the beginning of Christ’s presence if they were not able to distinguish Jesus from his Father, Jehovah?” – par. 1

Do you see the flaw?  This logic can’t work unless we first accept the premise that Christ’s presence began in 1914 in the first place.  That has yet to be proven in the study, but it is just assumed that all the readers of this book accept that as historical fact.  Fair enough.  Let’s go with that just to show how sloppy they are in their reasoning.

According to Studies in the Scriptures II, “The date of our Lord’s second advent, and the dawn of the Times of Restitution, we have already shown to be A.D. 1874.”  So the presence they were initially preparing God’s people for began in 1874.  Thus, preparations had to precede that date, or they would not have been preparations.  Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence was first published in 1879, five years after the alleged “second coming” of Christ.  So how exactly would “people have been prepared for the beginning of Christ’s presence” when these wonderful truths about the relationship between Jesus and his Father had yet to be revealed in the pages of The Watchtower?  Yet we are told that “without doubt, the ‘messenger’ prepared the way for the Messianic King!”

Okie-dokey!

Paragraph 14 gives us this exhortation:

“And what about us today? What can we learn from our brothers of more than a century ago? We likewise need to be avid readers and students of God’s Word. (John 17:3) As this materialistic world becomes emaciated, spiritually speaking, may our appetite for spiritual food grow ever stronger! – par. 14

Yes, oh yes, please!  I would wish that all who attend the weekly CLAM would become not just avid readers, but real students of God’s Word.  A good student listens to the teacher, but an exceptional student questions the teacher so that his understanding may be based on fact and real knowledge, and not just trust in men.

“Get Out of Her, My People”

From paragraph 15, we have this lesson:

“The Bible Students taught that it was necessary to break away from worldly churches…the  Bible Students gradually came to the realization that all the churches of Christendom were included in modern-day ‘Babylon.’ Why? Because they all taught doctrinal lies such as those discussed above.” – par. 15

Since we are talking about reasons to leave “Babylon”, there’s an interesting scripture in Jeremiah to dwell on:

“. . .And I will turn my attention upon Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth what he has swallowed. And to him nations will stream no more. Also, the wall itself of Babylon must fall.” (Jer 51:44)

As Witnesses, we have swallowed down the teaching that one should exit the churches of Christendom because they teach “doctrinal lies”. Well, it is now time to ‘bring forth out of our mouth that which we have swallowed.’

Here is a partial list of doctrinal lies which are taught by our religion.

1914 is the start of Christ’s invisible presence.

1919 is when Christ named the Governing Body as his appointed faithful and discreet slave.

There was no faithful and discreet slave from 33 C.E. to 1919.

The other sheep of John 10:16 are not spirit-anointed children of God.

One must be dedicated before one is baptized.

The last days began in 1914.

Armageddon will come within the lifespan of two overlapping generations of anointed Christians.

Since the criteria established by Jehovah’s Witnesses for getting out of Babylon the great is to flee from any religion that teaches false doctrine, would that not mean we must flee from our own Organization?  There seems to be no provision in the publications nor in the Bible for giving any religious group a free pass on the question of “doctrinal lies”.

Of course, if we identify our religion as a teacher of doctrinal lies, it would seem unwise to accept its counsel on any subject, especially one as sensitive as when to leave Babylon the Great.  It would be far wiser to base our decision on the Word of God, would it not?  Let’s try that.

The purpose of fleeing is to avoid being caught up in the punishment meted out to the great harlot by her political lovers. (Re 17:15-18; Re 18:4-5) So there will come a time when undeniably we will have to flee.  Does that mean we are required to flee prior to that time of distress and destruction?  The parable of the Wheat and Weeds indicates that both grow together and are only separated by the angels at harvest time.  (Mt 13:24-30; Mt 13:36-43) So it would seem that rather than laying down some hard and fast rule, we should respect the conscience of each one to determine the best course of action to take based on individual circumstances.

We Condemn Ourselves

The condemnation espoused in paragraph 18 is laughable in hindsight.

“If such warnings to get out of Babylon the Great had not been sounded regularly, would Christ as the newly installed King have had a body of prepared, anointed servants on earth? Surely not, for only Christians who are free from Babylon’s grip can worship Jehovah “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Are we today likewise determined to keep free from false religion? Let us keep obeying the command: “Get out of her, my people”!—Read Revelation 18:4.” – par. 18

Why does the Organization consider the churches of Christendom to be in the grip of Babylon?  What does Babylon have to do with Christianity?  The belief is that just as ancient Babylon had captured God’s people Israel, the religious practices of Babylon hold sway over Christianity today.  The Trinity, Hellfire, and immortal soul doctrines epitomize false worship. Babylon, being built on the site of the original city devoted to false worship, Babel (under Nimrod), represents pagan influence on God’s people—originally, on the Israelites, and after Christ, over the Israel of God. (Ge 10:9-10; Ga 6:16)

So for the reasoning that paragraph 18 applies to work, Russell and his associates would have had to free themselves from the grip of false religion, of pagan beliefs, of Babylonish influence.  This they did, in part, by abandoning the aforementioned core doctrines.  However, was that enough? The Bible says that a little leaven ferments the entire mass. (1Co 5:6) We know that Russell and his associates celebrated Christmas, a holiday Witnesses now proclaim to be steeped in paganism.  We saw in last week’s review the profound influence Russell’s fascination with Egyptian pyramidology had on the Bible Students.  We also saw that he wasn’t above openly promoting a blatant pagan symbol on the cover of some of his publications.  (The winged symbol of the Egyptian Sun God, Horus)  This influence followed him to the grave.  The shape of his grave marker and the crown and cross symbol are of Masonic origins.

grave-of-c-t-russell

Grave marker of C. T. Russell, Allegheny Pennsylvania, deceased October 31, 1916

We are not accusing Russell of being a free mason; nor are we suggesting that he was knowingly promoting paganism when he used the Pyramid of Giza as his “Bible in Stone”.  His character is not in question here.  Jesus is the judge of a man.  What we have a right to judge is the allegation made by our Bible study aid that Russell cleared the way for Jesus to return to the temple. (Mal 3:1)  How could he fill that role if he was still not “free from Babylon’s grip”?

Given the evidence, that hardly seems to be the case.

Gathering Together

There is good counsel in the study about meetings.

“The Bible Students taught that fellow believers should gather together for worship, where that was possible. For genuine Christians, it is not enough to get out of false religion. It is vital to take part in pure worship as well. From its early issues, the Watch Tower encouraged readers to gather together for worship.” – par. 19

“In 1882, an article called “Assembling Together” appeared in the Watch Tower. The article exhorted Christians to hold meetings “for mutual edification, encouragement and strengthening.” It noted: “It matters not whether there is any one learned or talented among you. Let each one bring his own Bible, paper, and pencil, and avail yourselves of as many helps in the way of a Concordance, . . . as possible. Choose your subject; ask for the Spirit’s guidance in the understanding of it; then read, think, compare scripture with scripture and you will assuredly be guided into truth.”” – par. 20

This has all changed, of course.  If today, some congregation members were to hold meetings using concordances and other Bible study aids outside of the rigidly controlled arrangement laid down by the Governing Body, they would be suspected of apostasy and strongly discouraged from continuing.

Often, when a former witness admits to friends or family that they don’t agree with some of the doctrines taught in the Organization, they are discouraged with words like, “But where else will you go?  What other religion is there that doesn’t teach the Trinity or Hellfire?”  The problem with the question is that it is based on a faulty premise. To a witness, there is no salvation outside of an Organization.  However, to one who has studied God’s word unencumbered by the influence of men, there is no need to belong to an organized religion to please God. In fact, the opposite proves to be true, since by definition, all organized religion is based to some degree on the teachings of men.

But doesn’t the Bible tell us to meet together? (He 10:24-25) Indeed it does. But it doesn’t tell us to join an organization.  Just as was the case with the early Bible students before they were hauled under the Watchtower umbrella of central government, we can meet with like-minded fellow Christians at will.  Where two or three are gathered, Jesus is there. (Mt 18:20)  For example, a number of us on this site have a regular on-line meeting on Sundays.  It’s a simple format.  We read a chapter of the Bible, pausing at every paragraph, and inviting anyone who wishes to offer their thoughts.  What a joy it is after decades of repetitive, boring meetings to learn something new each week, to be able to ask questions without fear of being judged, and to be able to freely express one’s faith in Jesus.

This is far easier to do than it was in the 19th century.  If we can’t meet together physically, we can do it virtually using any number of free tools on the internet.  We can also research a Bible text almost instantly with the search tools and resources open to us on-line.  If I might be so bold as to paraphrase the advice from the aforementioned 1882 Watch Tower article, “hold regular meetings, even if only with one other family or individual, even if only on-line, and avail yourselves of the many aids readily available on the internet.  Choose your subject, or just read directly from the Bible, compare scripture with scripture and let the Bible speak for itself.”

If You Say It Often Enough, It Must Be True

How often have you heard it said, with considerable pride I might add, that there is no clergy/laity distinction in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?  This belief is again reinforced in this week’s study.

“The Bible Students had their headquarters in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. There they set a fine example by gathering together in obedience to the inspired counsel recorded at Hebrews 10:24, 25. (Read.) Much later, an elderly brother named Charles Capen recalled attending those  meetings as a boy. He wrote: ‘I still remember one of the scripture texts painted on the wall of the Society’s assembly hall. “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” That text has always stood out in my mind—there is no clergy-laity distinction among Jehovah’s people.’” – par. 21

In the days of Russell, and the early years of Rutherford’s tenure, this might have been true to some extent.  However, Rutherford did away with that in 1934 with his creation of a subclass of Christian called “the other sheep”.

“Be it noted that the obligation is laid upon the priestly class [the anointed] to do the leading or reading of the law of instruction to the people. Therefore, where there is a company of Jehovah’s witnesses…the leader of a study should be selected from amongst the anointed, and likewise those of the service committee should be taken from the anointed….Jonadab [a non-Israelite representing the other sheep] was there as one to learn, and not one who was to teach….The official organization of Jehovah on earth consists of his anointed remnant, and the Jonadabs [other sheep] who walk with the anointed are to be taught, but not to be leaders. This appearing to be God’s arrangement, all should gladly abide thereby.” (w34 8/15 p. 250 par. 32)

While this arrangement passed away when the end didn’t come quickly and the number of anointed dwindled to a point that made it impossible to oversee the ever-growing number of “other sheep”, we continue to have a clergy/laity distinction today, evident in the ecclesiastical hierarchy where authority flows from the Governing Body to the branch committees, to the traveling overseers to local elders.  If you doubt that there is a clergy/laity distinction, just try offering a comment which contradicts something taught by the Governing Body.  It won’t be your average congregation publisher who pulls you into the Kingdom Hall library for a ‘chat’ after the meeting.

One of the tests to determine whether or not one is in a cult is whether they rewrite their history.  One of the things Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for was their hypocrisy.  As we continue our study of JW history through the lens of this book, we do well to ponder these things.