In our last video we examined the question asked of Jesus by four of his apostles as recorded at Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:2, and Luke 21:7. We learned that they wanted to know when the things he had prophesied – specifically the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple – would come to pass. We also saw that they expected the kingdom of God (Christ’s presence or parousia) to begin at that time. This expectation is corroborated by their question to the Lord just prior to his ascension.
“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 BSB)
We know that Jesus understood the heart of man very well. He understood the weakness of the flesh. He understood the eagerness that his disciples felt for the arrival of his kingdom. He understood how vulnerable humans are to being misled. He would soon be killed and so no longer be there to guide and protect them. His opening words in answer to their question reflect all of this, for he did not start out with a direct answer to their question, but rather he chose the opportunity to warn them about the dangers that would confront and challenge them.
These warnings are recorded by all three writers. (See Matthew 24:4-14; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19)
In each case, the first words he utters are:
“See to it that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4 BSB)
“Take heed, lest anyone mislead you.” (Mark 13:5 BLB)
“Watch out that you are not deceived.” (Luke 21:8 NIV)
He then tells them who will do the misleading. Luke says it best in my opinion.
“He said: “Look out that you are not misled, for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time is near.’ Do not go after them.” (Luke 21:8 NWT)
Personally, I am guilty of ‘going after them’. My indoctrination began in infancy. I was unwittingly impelled by misplaced trust in the men leading the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I tied my salvation to them. I believed I was saved by remaining within the organization they directed. But ignorance is no excuse for disobedience, nor do good intentions allow one to escape the consequences of one’s actions. The Bible clearly tells us not ‘to trust in nobles and the son of earthling man for our salvation’. (Psalm 146:3) I managed to ignore that command by reasoning that it applied to the “wicked” men outside the organization.
Men told me in print and from the platform that “the due time is near,” and I believed it. These men are still proclaiming this message. Based on a ridiculous reworking of their generation doctrine based on Matthew 24:34 and an overreaching application of Exodus 1:6, they are again claiming from the convention platform that ‘the end is imminent’. They’ve been doing this for over 100 years and will not give it up.
Why do you think that is? Why go to such ludicrous extremes to keep a failed doctrine alive?
Control, plain and simple. It is hard to control people who are not afraid. If they fear something and see you as the solution to the problem—their protectors, as it were—they will give you their allegiance, their obedience, their services, and their money.
The false prophet relies on instilling fear in his audience, which is precisely why we are told not to fear him. (De 18:22)
Nevertheless, there are consequences to losing your fear of the false prophet. He will get angry with you. Jesus said that those who speak his truth will be persecuted, and that “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:13)
Advancing from bad to worse. Hmm, but doesn’t that ring true?
The Jews who returned from Babylon were chastened. They never again returned to the idolatrous worship that had brought God’s disfavor upon them. Yet, they did not remain pure, but advanced from bad to worse, even to the point of demanding that the Romans kill the son of God.
Let us not be fooled into thinking that wicked men are manifestly so, or even that they are aware of the own wickedness. Those men—priests, scribes, and Pharisees—were seen as the holiest and most learned of God’s people. They considered themselves to be the best, the finest, the most pure of all God’s worshippers. (John 7:48, 49) But they were liars, as Jesus said, and like the best of liars, they got to believing their own lies. (John 8:44) They not only misled others, but were misled themselves—by their own story, their own narrative, their own self-image.
If you love truth and love honesty, it is very difficult to wrap your mind around the concept that someone can act wickedly and seem to be unaware of the fact; that a person can cause harm to others—even the most vulnerable, even little children—while actually believing he is doing the will of the God of love. (John 16:2; 1 John 4:8)
Perhaps when you first read the new interpretation of Matthew 24:34, the so-called doctrine of overlapping generations, you realized that they were just making stuff up. Perhaps you thought, why would they teach something that is so transparently false? Did they really think the brothers would just swallow this down without a question?
When we first learned that the Organization that we esteemed so highly as God’s chosen people had engaged in a 10-year-long affiliation with the United Nations, the image of the wild beast, we were shocked. They only got out of it when they were exposed in a newspaper article. They excused this as necessary to get a library card. Remember, that it is adultery with the wild beast the condemns Babylon the Great.
Imagine telling your wife, “Oh, honey, I just bought a membership in the town brothel, but only because they have a really good library that I need access to.”
How could they do such a stupid thing? Did they not realize that eventually those committing adultery always get caught red handed?
Recently, we’ve learned that the Governing Body is willing to spend millions of dollars to keep from revealing a list of thousands of child abusers. Why do they care about protecting the identity of wicked men so much that they would waste millions of dollars of dedicated funds on the endeavour? These do not appear to be the righteous actions of men who claim to be both faithful and discreet.
The Bible speaks of men who become “empty-headed in their reasonings” and that while “claiming they are wise, they become foolish.” It speaks of God giving such men up to a “disapproved mental state”. (Romans 1:21, 22, 28)
“Empty headed reasonings”, “foolishness”, “disapproved mental state”, “advancing from bad to worse”—as you look at the current state of the Organization, do you see a correlation with what the Bible speaks of?
The Bible is full of such warnings and Jesus’ answer to his disciples’ question is no exception.
But it is not only false prophets that he warns us about. It is also our own inclination to read prophetic significance into catastrophic events. Earthquakes are a fact of nature and occur regularly. Pestilences, famines and wars are all recurring events and are the product of our imperfect human nature. Yet, desperate for relief from suffering, we might be inclined to read into these things more than is there.
Therefore, Jesus continues by saying, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, as well as famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” (Mark 13:7, 8 BSB)
“The end is still to come.” “These are the beginning of birth pains.” “Do not be alarmed.”
Some have tried to turn these words into what they call “a composite sign”. The disciples only asked for a single sign. Jesus never speaks of multiple signs or a composite sign. He never says that wars, earthquakes, pestilences, or famines are signs of his imminent arrival. Instead, he warns his disciples to not be alarmed and assures them that when they see such things, the end is not yet.
In the 14th and 15th century, Europe was embroiled in what is called the Hundred Years’ War. During that war, the Bubonic Plague broke out and killed anywhere from 25% to 60% of the population of Europe. It went beyond Europe and decimated the populations of China, Mongolia, and India. It was arguably, the worst pandemic of all time. Christians thought the end of the world had come; but we know it didn’t. They were easily misled because they ignored Jesus’ warning. We can’t really blame them, because back then the Bible was not readily available to the masses; but that is not the case in our day.
In 1914, the world fought the bloodiest war in history—at least to that point. This was the first industrialized war—machine guns, tanks, airplanes. Millions died. Then came the Spanish Influenza and millions more died. All of this made the ground fertile for Judge Rutherford’s prediction that Jesus would return in 1925, and many of the Bible students of the day ignored Jesus’ warning and ‘went after him’. He made “an ass” of himself—his words—and for that and other reasons by 1930, only about 25% of the Bible student groups that were still affiliated with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society continued to be with Rutherford.
Have we learned our lesson? For many, yes, but not all. I get correspondence all the time from sincere Bible students who are still trying to decipher God’s chronology. These still believe that World War I holds some prophetic significance. How is that possible? Notice how the New World Translation renders Matthew 24:6, 7:
“You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for these things must take place, but the end is not yet.
7 “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. 8 All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”
There was no paragraph break in the original. The translator inserts the paragraph break and is guided by his understanding of Scripture. This is how doctrinal bias creeps into Bible translation.
Starting this paragraph off with the preposition “for” gives the impression that verse seven is a break from verse 6. It might lead the reader to accept the thought that Jesus is saying not to get misled by any rumours of wars, but to watch out for global war. Global war is the sign, they conclude.
The word in Greek translated “for” is gar and according to Strong’s Concordance, it means “for, indeed, (a conjunction used to express cause, explanation, inference, or continuation).” Jesus is not introducing a contrasting thought, but rather is expanding on his premise not to be startled by wars. What he is saying—and the Greek grammar bears this out—is nicely rendered by the Good News Translation in more contemporary language:
“You are going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come. Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be famines and earthquakes everywhere. All these things are like the first pains of childbirth. (Matthew 24:6-8 GNT)
Now I know that some are going to take exception to what I’m saying here and are going to respond vehemently to defend their interpretation. I ask only that you first consider the hard facts. C. T. Russell wasn’t the first to come up with theories based on these and related verses. In fact, I recently interviewed Historian James Penton and learned that such prognostications have been going on for centuries. (By the way, I’ll be releasing the Penton interview soon.)
There is a saying that goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” How often are we going to fixate on Jesus’ words and turn his words of warning into the very thing he was warning us against?
Now, you may think that we all have the right to believe what we want; that “live and let live” should be our byword. After the restrictions we’ve endured within the organization, that seems like a reasonable idea, but having lived with one extreme for decades, let’s not whiplash over to the other extreme. Critical thought is not restrictive, but neither is it licentious nor permissive. Critical thinkers want the truth.
So, if someone comes to you with personal interpretation on prophetic chronology, remember Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples when they asked him if he was restoring the Kingdom of Israel at that time. “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)
Let’s dwell on that for a moment. Following the attacks of 9/11, the United States government instituted what it calls, “No Fly Zones”. You fly anywhere near the White House or the Freedom Tower in New York and you’re likely to get blown out of the sky. Those areas are now under the government’s jurisdiction. You have no right to intrude.
Jesus is telling us that knowing when he’ll come as king does not belong to us. This is not our possession. We have no rights here.
What happens if we take something that is not ours? We suffer the consequences. This is no game, as history has proven. However, Father doesn’t punish us for intruding into his domain. The punishment is built right into the equation, you see? Yes, we punish ourselves—and those who follow us. This punishment results when foretold events fail to come true. Lives are wasted pursuing a vain hope. Great disillusionment follows. Anger. And sadly, all too often, a loss of faith results. This is the consequence of lawlessness that results from presumptuousness. Jesus predicted this as well. Jumping ahead momentarily, we read:
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:11, 12 ESV)
So, if someone comes to you presuming to have decoded the secrets of God and to have access to hidden knowledge, do not go after them. This is not me talking. This is the warning of our Lord. I didn’t heed that warning when I should have. So, I am speaking from experience here.
Yet some will say, “But didn’t Jesus tell us that everything would happen in a generation? Didn’t he tell us that we could see it coming as we see the leaves budding that foretell summer is near?” Such ones are referring to verses 32 to 35 of Matthew 24. We will get to that in good time. But bear in mind that Jesus does not contradict himself, nor mislead. He tells us in verse 15 of this same chapter, “Let the reader use discernment,” and that is precisely what we are going to do.
For now, let us move on to the next verses in Matthew’s account. From the English Standard Version we have:
Matthew 24:9-11, 13 – “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray…But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Mark 13:9, 11-13 – “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them…. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Luke 21:12-19 – “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
- What are the common elements from these three accounts?
- Persecution will come.
- We will be hated.
- Even those nearest and dearest will turn against us.
- We will stand before kings and governors.
- We will bear witness by the power of Holy Spirit.
- We will gain salvation through endurance.
- We are not to be afraid, because we have been forewarned.
You may have noticed that I’ve left a couple of verses out. That is because I want to deal with them specifically due to their controversial nature; but before getting to that, I would like you to consider this: Up to this point, Jesus has yet to answer the question the disciples put to him. He has spoken about wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, false prophets, false Christs, persecutions, and bearing witness even before rulers, but he has given them no sign.
Over the past 2,000 years, have there not been wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences? From Jesus day down to ours, have not false prophets and false anointed ones or Christs misled many? Have not true disciples of Christ been persecuted for the past two millennia, and have they not born witness before all rulers?
His words are not confined to a particular time period, neither to the first century, nor to our day. These warnings have been and will continue to be relevant until the last Christian goes to his or her reward.
Speaking for myself, I never knew persecution throughout my life until I proclaimed myself publicly for the Christ. It was only when I put the Word of the Christ ahead of the word of men that I had friends turn on me, and hand me over to the rulers of the Organization. Many of you have experienced the same thing I have, and far worse. I have not yet had to face real kings and governors, yet in some ways, that would have been easier. Being hated by someone for whom you have no natural affection is hard in one way, but it pales by comparison to having those who are dear to you, even family members, children or parents, turn on you and treat you with hatred. Yes, I think that is the toughest test of all.
Now, to deal with those verses I skipped over. Verse 10 of Mark 13 reads: “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Luke makes no mention of these words, but Matthew adds to them and in doing so provides a verse that Jehovah’s Witnesses fixate on as proof that they alone are God’s chosen people. Reading from the New World Translation:
“And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt 24:14)
Just how important is this verse to the mind of a Jehovah’s Witness? I will tell you from repeated personal encounters. You can talk about the hypocrisy of the UN membership. You can show the abysmal record of countless instances where the organization has put its name above the welfare of the little ones by covering over child sexual abuse. You can point out that their doctrines are from men and not from God. Yet, all this gets sidelined by the rebuttal question: “But who else is doing the preaching work? Who else is giving a witness to all the nations? How can the preaching work be carried out without an organization?”
Even when acknowledging the many shortcomings of the Organization, many Witnesses seem to believe that Jehovah will overlook everything, or fix everything in his due time, but that he will not take his spirit away from the one organization on earth that is fulfilling the prophetic words of Matthew 24:14.
A proper understanding of Matthew 24:14 is so important to helping our Witness brethren to see their true role in the outworking of Father’s purpose that to do it justice, we’ll leave this for our next video consideration.
Again, thank you for watching. I would also like to thank those who are supporting us financially. Your donations have helped to defray the costs of continuing to produce these videos and to lighten our load.