Bible Study – Chapter 3 Par. 13-22
Riddle: Is the following sequence correctly arranged?
O, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Answer: No. You may disagree, arguing that the numbers are in proper numerical sequence, but the problem with that assessment is that they are not all numbers. What you think is a zero is actually an uppercase letter “O”, which should go at the end of the sequence—numbers before letters.
The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that it is possible to make it appear that something belongs in a set when in fact it does not. Such is the case with the chart we are asked to review in this week’s Bible Study. The chart is titled: “Jehovah Progressively Reveals His Purpose”.
The item that doesn’t belong is the final one:
Time of the End
Knowledge of the Kingdom begins to become abundant
Without getting into the accuracy of the dates listed, this is the only item in the list which is not found recorded in some way in the Bible. By including it, the publishers hope to fool the readers into thinking that their interpretation concerning 1914 has the legitimacy of God’s inspired word.
Another attempt to get us to accept as fact, something for which no proof is given. One might assume that the two Scripture references listed provide that proof. If so, one would be wrong. Observe:
“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (Joh 10:16)
“Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.” (Lu 12:32)
Neither text contains information that would lead a Christian to the conclusion that Jesus is speaking of two distinct groups of Christians with different hopes and rewards. He does not identify the other sheep. But he does say that they will appear later and will become part of the current flock.
So John 10:16 seems to support the idea that there are two groups who have the same hope and get the same reward. The little flock was present when Jesus used that term. Therefore, we can conclude they are his Jewish disciples. There was another flock who came into existence after Jesus returned to heaven. These were gentile Christians. Can there be any doubt that when first century Jewish disciples thought back on Jesus’ words at John 10:16, they saw their fulfillment in the influx of gentiles into the Christian congregation? That was evidently what Paul had in mind at Romans 1:16 and Romans 2:9-11. He also speaks of the union of the two flocks into one at Galatians 3:26-29. There is simply no basis in Scripture to conclude that the fulfillment of John 10:16 was intended to refer to a group that would not make its appearance for 2,000 years.
Paragraphs 16 & 17
One might ask, ‘Why wouldn’t Jesus just tell his listeners at John 10:16 (Jews who were not his disciples) that gentiles were going to join the ranks of his followers?’ The next paragraph of the study unwittingly provides the answer:
Jesus could have told his disciples many things while with them on earth, but he knew that they were not able to bear them. (John 16:12) – par. 16
If Jesus had told his Jewish disciples as well as the crowds listening to him that they were going to have to associate with gentiles as brothers, it would have been too much for them to bear. Jews wouldn’t even enter into the home of a gentile. When forced to do so by circumstance, they considered themselves to be unclean. (Acts 10:28; John 18:28)
There is another error at the end of paragraph 16 and into 17.
Without a doubt, much knowledge about the Kingdom was revealed in the first century. However, that was not yet the time for such knowledge to become abundant. – par. 16
Jehovah promised Daniel that during “the time of the end,” many would “rove about, and the true knowledge” of God’s purpose would become abundant. (Dan. 12:4) – par. 17
“Without a doubt” is one of the terms used by the Organization when they want the reader to accept as true, something for which there is no scriptural proof. Other similar terms used in this way are, “evidently”, “undoubtedly”, and “doubtless”.
In this instance, they want us to believe that Dan. 12:4 was not fulfilled in the first century. They want us to believe that those Christians were not in the last days that Daniel referred to, despite what Peter says at Acts 2:14-21. They want us to disregard the biblical evidence that then was the sacred secret revealed; that then many roved about with the good news; that only then was the true knowledge found in God’s Word completed with John’s writings. (Da 12:4; Col 1:23) Instead, they want us to believe that only since 1914 and only among Jehovah’s Witnesses has the true knowledge become abundant. This knowledge has been revealed through a tiny group of men (currently 7, aka “the many”) who rove about in the Scriptures, who then make knowledge abundant to the flock. (w12 8/15 p. 3 par. 2)
Where is the evidence that true knowledge has become abundant in our day—knowledge denied the apostles and first century Christians? For most Witnesses, the evidence consists of the testimony of the Governing Body. Their word is all that most JWs need. But Jesus warned us about those who bear witness about themselves. (John 5:31) Has true knowledge become progressively revealed since 1914?
Two weeks ago, the study told us:
Beginning in 1914, God’s people on earth faced a succession of major tests and hardships. As World War I raged, many Bible Students experienced vicious persecution and imprisonment. – chap. 2, par. 31
The footnote expanded on that statement by saying:
In September 1920, The Golden Age (now Awake!) published a special issue detailing numerous instances of wartime persecution—some of it shockingly brutal—in Canada, England, Germany, and the United States. In contrast, the decades prior to the first world war saw very little persecution of that kind. – footnote to par. 31
The wording here tells us that throughout the war (“Beginning in 1914”) faithful Bible Students were persecuted. In contrast, we are told that the decades prior to 1914 were peaceful. This is supposedly detailed in the September 29, 1920 Special Issue of The Golden Age. We are to believe that all of this alleged wartime persecution was part of a refining process which allowed Jesus to choose his Faithful and Discreet Slave (aka the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses) in 1919.
The problem with all this is that the Organization’s own publications contradict these claims. For example, the aforementioned Special Issue contains this revealing statement:
“Remembering the persecutions against Bible Students in Germany and Austria in 1917 and in Canada in 1918, and how these were instigated and participated in by the clergy on both sides of the ocean…” – ga Sep. 29, 1920, p. 705
If you have a copy of that special issue, turn to page 712 and read: “The spring and summer of 1918 witnessed a widespread persecution of Bible Students, both in America and in Europe…”
No mention is made about 1914 being the start of persecution. Is this just an oversight. The fact it is not specifically mentioned here doesn’t mean persecution didn’t begin at the start of the war and continue throughout. Rather than guess, let us listen to those who were around at that time.
“Be it noted here that from 1874 to 1918 there was little, if any, persecution of those of Zion; that beginning with the Jewish year 1918, to wit, the latter part of 1917 our time, the great suffering came upon the anointed ones, Zion (March 1, 1925 issue p. 68 par. 19)
So those at the top of the Organization—men who lived through the years in question—tell us that there was no persecution from 1914 until 1917, but those who are now at the top, 100 years later, and to whom ‘the truth has been progressively revealed’ tell us the opposite. What does this evidence indicate?
Could it be a simple mistake, an oversight. These are imperfect men, after all. They could have missed this single fact in their research. After all, they can’t read all the old publications. Possibly, but what’s odd is that this little fact isn’t hidden away. It’s on the second page of the article “Birth of a Nation” to which paragraph 18 makes reference. If I can find it, sitting in my living room working on my little laptop, surely they with all their resources could do better.
‘So what?’, some might say. Whether the persecution began in 1914 or 1918, it still began during the war. True, but why did it not begin in 1914. What was special about 1918?
Perhaps this advertisement in the September 1, 1920 issue of The Golden Age will shed some light on the matter.
If the wording is not legible on your device, the relevant passage it reads:
“For the publication and circulation of this book during the war [in 1917] many Christians suffered great persecution—being beaten, tarred and feathered, imprisoned, and killed.—Mark 13:9
What we have here is revisionist history. The reason for the persecution in 1918 was the unnecessary inflammatory language published in the Finished Mystery. This persecution was not for Jesus’ sake per Mark 13:9.
Given that we can’t even get our own history straight using our own publications as reference material, what should we make of this statement?
Just as Jehovah progressively revealed truths about the Kingdom in the period leading up to 1914, he continues to do so during the time of the end. As Chapters 4 and 5 of this book will show, over the past 100 years, God’s people have had to adjust their understanding on a number of occasions. Does that fact mean that they do not have Jehovah’s backing? – par. 18
“Just as” means “in the same way”. Do we find a record in the Bible of prophets revealing truths, in the same way as we claim they are revealed today? In the Bible, the progressive revelation of truth was always from “not knowing” to “knowing”. It was never from “knowing” to “Oops, we were wrong, and now we have it right.” In fact, there are instances in the history of the so-called progressive revelation of truth among Jehovah’s Witnesses where “the truth” has flip-flopped, reversing back and forth several times. If we accept what the book, God’s Kingdom Rules, is telling us, we have the scenario of Jehovah progressively revealing that the Sodomites were going to be resurrected, then progressively revealing they were not going to be resurrected, then later progressively revealing they were going to be resurrected after all, then not, then…well, you get the picture. This particular flip-flop is now in its eighth iteration, yet we are still expected to consider it as “progressively revealed truth.”
Paragraph 18 claims that despite all the changes, we still have Jehovah’s backing because we have faith and humility. This humility is all on the part of the rank and file, however. When the Governing Body changes a teaching, it never accepts full responsibility for the past error, nor does it apologize for any pain or suffering it has caused. Yet it demands humility of the rank and file to accept its changes unquestioningly.
Here are some policies which have now been changed, but which caused harm while in force. For a time, organ transplants were a sin; likewise, blood fractions. There was a time in the 1970s that the Governing Body did not allow a sister to divorce a husband who engaged in either homosexuality or bestiality. These are just three examples of changed policies that while in force played havoc with people’s lives. A humble person would express regret for any pain and suffering his actions may cause. He would do what he can to make restitution for any harm he is directly responsible for.
The humility the book claims allows Jehovah to overlook our doctrinal mistakes has never been evident when these false teachings were corrected. Based on the Governing Body’s own criteria, can we still expect Jehovah to overlook such harmful teachings?
In our zeal to see God’s promises fulfilled, we have on occasion drawn wrong conclusions. – par. 19
Say what!? “On occasion”? It would be easier to list the prophetic interpretations that we got right than to compile a list of the wrong ones. In fact, is there a single prophetic interpretation unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses, such as the 1874 invisible presence of Christ, which we have got right?
When Jehovah refines our understanding of truth, our heart condition is tested. Will faith and humility move us to accept the changes? – par. 20
In this paragraph, the reader is expected to equate the divine revelation through Paul that Christians were not required to obey the law code, to the ever-changing ‘truths’ revealed by the Governing Body. The problem with this analogy is that Paul wasn’t interpreting Scripture. He was writing under inspiration.
When Jehovah refines our understanding, he does so through his Word. For example, many of us believed for years that we were not to partake of the emblems because the publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society told us not to. When we started to study God’s Word without allowing the ideas of men to influence us, we could find no reason not to obey the expressed command of our Lord. Likewise, we found no basis to consider ourselves only as God’s friends, but not his children. (John 1:12; 1Co 11:23-26)
In answer to the question asked in paragraph 20, our faith and humility moved us to accept the changes that were revealed to us by God’s spirit from a study of his word. These were not easy changes to make. They resulted in humiliation, slanderous gossip, and persecution. In this, we have imitated Paul. (1Co 11:1)
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8 NIV)
We should all read this paragraph carefully and apply it.
Humble Christians accepted Paul’s inspired explanation and were blessed by Jehovah. (Acts 13:48) Others resented the refinements and wanted to cling to their own understanding. (Gal. 5:7-12) If they would not change their viewpoint, those individuals would lose the opportunity to be corulers with Christ.—2 Pet. 2:1. – par. 20
In applying this counsel, bear in mind that “their own understanding” and “their viewpoint” applies also to the collective. Are you willing to give up the understanding and viewpoint you share with your JW brethren if it turns out that it conflicts with that revealed in God’s word? If not, then you will likely lose out on the opportunity to be a coruler with Christ.
This paragraph carries on a long tradition of attributing all revealed truth to Jehovah. Citing a number of changes to our understanding, it paints these as refinements from God. However, the previous understandings of these points were also called refinements from God, and when they change again, as they likely will, those will be called refinements from God. So when what was thought to be true turns out to have been false, how can that be a refinement from the God of all truth?