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Hi, my name’s Eric Wilson. There is another Eric Wilson on the Internet doing Bible-based videos but he is not connected to me in any way. So, if you do a search on my name but come up with the other guy, try instead my alias, Meleti Vivlon. I used that alias for years on my websites—meletivivlon.com, beroeans.net, beroeans.study—to avoid unnecessary persecution. It has served me well, and I still use it. It is a transliteration of two Greek words which mean “Bible study”.
This is now the fourth in our series of videos on the very controversial and often misinterpreted 24th chapter of Matthew. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they alone have unveiled the mysteries and true significance of Jesus’ words spoken on the Mount of Olives. In reality, they are just one of many religions who have misconstrued the true import and application of what Jesus was telling his disciples. Back in 1983, William R Kimball—not a Jehovah’s Witness—had the following to say about this prophecy in his book:
“A wrong interpretation of this prophecy has often resulted in a multitude of erroneous concepts, foolish theorizing, and fanciful speculations concerning the prophetic forecasts of the future. Like the “domino principle,” when the Olivet discourse is pushed out of balance, all related prophecies down the line are subsequently knocked out of alignment.”
“The pattern of forcing the Scriptures to bow before the “sacred cows” of prophetic tradition has often been the case when interpreting the Olivet discourse. Because the priority in interpreting has often been placed upon a prophetic system rather than upon the clear thrust of the word, there has been a common reluctance to accept the Scriptures at face value or in the proper contextual setting which the Lord intended to convey. This has often been baneful to the study of prophecy.”
From the book, What the Bible Says about the Great Tribulation by William R. Kimball (1983) page 2.
I had planned on moving forward with the discussion starting with verse 15, but a number of comments that were spawned by something I said in my previous video have caused me to do some additional research in defense of what I said, and as a result I have learned something very interesting.
It seems that some got the impression that when I said that Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled in the first century, I was also saying that the preaching of the good news ended then. That is simply not the case. I realize that the power of JW indoctrination tends to cloud our minds in ways of which we are not even aware.
As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was taught that the end to which Jesus referred in verse 14 was that of the current system of things. Consequently, I was led to believe that the good news according to Jehovah’s Witnesses which I was preaching would come to its completion prior to Armageddon. In fact, not only would it end prior to Armageddon, but it would be replaced by a different message. This continues to be the belief among Witnesses.
“This will not be the time to preach the “good news of the Kingdom.” That time will have passed. The time for “the end” will have come! (Matt 24:14) No doubt, God’s people will proclaim a hard-hitting judgment message. This may well involve a declaration announcing that Satan’s wicked world is about to come to its complete end.” (w15 7/15 p. 16, par. 9)
Of course, this completely ignores Jesus’ statement that “no man knows the day nor hour”. He also said repeatedly that he will come as a thief. A thief doesn’t broadcast to the world that he is about to rob your house.
Imagine, if you will, planting signs in the neighborhood, telling you that next week he’s going to rob your house. That’s ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It’s outrageous. Yet that is precisely what Jehovah’s Witnesses intend to preach according to the Watchtower. They’re saying that Jesus will tell them in some way or another, or Jehovah will tell them, that it’s time to tell everybody that the thief is about to attack.
This teaching that the preaching of the good news will be replaced with a final message of judgment just before the end is not only unscriptural; it makes a mockery of God’s word.
It is foolishness of the highest order. It is what comes from placing one’s trust in “nobles and the son of earthling man to whom no salvation belongs” (Ps 146:3).
This kind of indoctrinated mentality is very deep-seated, and can affect us in subtle, almost undetectable ways. We might think we’re rid of it, when it suddenly raises its ugly little head and sucks us back in. For many witnesses, it is almost impossible to read Matthew 24:14 and not think that it applies to our day.
Let me clear this up. What I believe is that Jesus was not telling his disciples about the completion of the preaching work but about its progress or reach. Of course, the preaching work would go on long after Jerusalem was destroyed. Nevertheless, he was assuring them that the preaching of the good news would reach all the gentiles prior to the end of the Jewish system of things. That turned out to be true. No surprise there. Jesus doesn’t get things wrong.
But what about me? Am I wrong in my conclusion that Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled in the first century? Am I wrong in concluding that the end Jesus was referring to was the end of the Jewish system of things?
Either he was speaking about the end of the Jewish system of things, or he was referring to a different end. I see no basis in the context for the belief in a primary and secondary application. This is not a type/antitype situation. He only mentions one end. So, let’s assume, despite the context, that it is not the end of the Jewish system of things. What other candidates are there?
It has to be ‘an end’ that is linked to the preaching of the Good News.
Armageddon marks the end of the current system of things and is linked to the preaching of the good news. However, I see no reason to conclude he was speaking of Armageddon given all the evidence presented in the previous video. To sum up what we learned there: no one, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, is preaching the real Good News in all the inhabited earth and to all the nations at the present time.
If, in the future, the children of God manage to reach all the nations of the world with the true good news that Jesus preached, then we might reconsider our understanding, but to date there is no evidence to support that.
As I’ve stated before, my preference in Bible study is to go with exegesis. To let the Bible interpret itself. If we are to do that then we have to establish the criteria upon which to base our understanding of the meaning of any given passage of Scripture. There are three key elements to take into consideration in verse 14.
- The nature of the message, i.e., the Good News.
- The scope of the preaching.
- The end of what?
Let’s start with the first one. What is the good news? As we determined in the last video, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not preach it. There is nothing in the book of Acts, which is the primary account of the first century preaching work, to indicate that early Christians went from place to place telling people they could become friends of God and thus be saved from worldwide destruction.
What was the essence of the good news that they preached? John 1:12 pretty much says it all.
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name” (John 1:12).
(By the way, unless otherwise quoted, I’m using the New World Translation for all scriptures in this video.)
You cannot become something you already are. If you are a son of God, you cannot become a son of God. That makes no sense. Prior to Christ’s coming, the only humans who had been children of God were Adam and Eve. But they lost out when they sinned. They became disinherited. They could no longer inherit everlasting life. All their children as a consequence were born outside the family of God. So, the good news is that we can now become children of God and grab hold of everlasting life because we can again be in a position to inherit that from our father.
“And everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.” (Mt 19:29)
Paul puts this very nicely when he writes to the Romans:
“. . .For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs—heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ. . .” (Romans 8:14-17)
We can now refer to the Almighty by a term of endearment: “Abba, Father”. It is like saying Daddy, or Papa. It is a term showing the respectful affection that a child has to a loving parent. Through this, we become his heirs, those who inherit everlasting life, and much more.
But there is more to the message of the good news. The immediate message of the good news is not of worldwide salvation, but of the choosing of the children of God. However, that leads to the salvation of humankind. Paul continues:
What is the creation? Animals are not saved by the good news. They continue on as they have always been. This message is for humans only. Why are they likened then to the creation? Because in their current state, they are not God’s children. They are really no different from animals in the sense that they are destined to die.
“I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 3:18, 19 NASB)
So, humanity – the creation – is freed from enslavement to sin and restored to the family of God through the revealing of the children of God who are being gathered now.
James tells us, “Because he willed it, he brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be certain firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18)
If we are to be firstfruits as children of God, then the fruits that follow must be the same. If you harvest apples at the beginning of the harvest, you harvest apples as the end of the harvest. All become children of God. The only difference is in the sequence.
So, boiling it down to its essence, the good news is the declared hope that we can all return to the family of God with all the attendant benefits of sonship. This is based on looking to Jesus as our savior.
The good news is about returning to the family of God as a child of God.
This preaching work, this declaration of hope for all humankind, when does it come to its end? Would it not be when there are no more humans who need to hear it?
If the preaching of the good news ends at Armageddon, that would leave billions out in the cold. For example, what about the billions who will be resurrected after Armageddon? Upon their resurrection, won’t they be told they too can become children of god if they put faith in the name of Jesus? Of course. And isn’t that good news? Is there better news than that possible? I don’t think so.
That is so self-evident that it begs the question, why do Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that the preaching of the good news ends before Armageddon? The answer is because the “good news” they are preaching amounts to this: “Join the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and be saved from eternal death at Armageddon, but don’t expect to get everlasting life for another thousand years if you behave yourself.”
But of course, that is not the good news. The good news is: “You can become a child of God and inherit everlasting life if you put faith in the name of Jesus Christ now.”
And what if you don’t put faith in Jesus so as to become a child of God now? Well, according to Paul, you remain part of the creation. When the children of God are revealed, then the creation will rejoice to see that they too can have the opportunity to become children of God. If you reject the offer at that time with the overwhelming evidence at hand, then it’s on you.
When does that good news stopping preached?
About the time that the last human is resurrected, wouldn’t you say? Is that connected to an end?
According to Paul, yes.
“However, now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence. Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until [God] has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. (1Co 15:20-26)
At the end, when Jesus has reduced all government, authority, and power to nothing and even brought death to nothing, we can safely say that the preaching of the good news will have ended. We can also say that every human who has ever lived at any time, in any place, from any tribe, language, people or nation will have received the message of the good news.
So, if you prefer to look at this as an absolute fulfillment rather than a subjective or relative one, we can say unequivocally that at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ this good news will have been preached in all the inhabited earth to every nation before the end.
I can only see two ways in which Matthew 24:14 can apply and meet all the criteria. One is relative and one is absolute. Based on my reading of the context, I think Jesus was speaking relatively, but I cannot say that with absolute certainty. I know others will prefer the alternative, and some even now, will continue to believe his words apply to the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the preaching of the good news ends just before Armageddon.
How important is it to understand exactly what he was referring to? Well, putting the interpretation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to one side for the moment, the two possibilities we’ve discussed do not affect us in any way at the present time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t preach the good news. Of course, we should, whenever the opportunity presents itself. That being said, with Matthew 24:14, we are not talking about a sign that predicts the nearness of the end. That is what Witnesses have wrongly claimed and look at the harm it has done.
How often does one come home from a circuit assembly or regional convention and instead of feeling uplifted, one is riddled with guilt? I remember as an elder how each circuit overseer visit was something we dreaded. They were guilt trips. The organization does not motive by love, but by guilt and fear.
The misinterpretation and misapplication of Matthew 24:14 puts a heavy burden on all Jehovah’s Witnesses, because it forces them to believe that if they don’t do their utmost and beyond in preaching from door-to-door and with the carts, they will be blood guilty. People will die eternally who could have been saved if only they had worked a little harder, sacrificed a little more. I did a search in the Watchtower library on self-sacrifice using the token: “self-sacrifc*”. I got over a thousand hits! Guess how many I got from the Bible? Not a one.
Thank you for watching.