“A nation has come up into my land.”​—Joel 1:6

 [From ws 04/20 p.2 June 1 – June 7]

Regarding “Bro C.T. Russell and his associates” the study article states in paragraph 1 Their method of study was simple. Someone would raise a question, and then the group would examine every scripture text related to the subject. Finally, they would make a record of their findings.”.

The first thing that struck me about this quote was how unlike the way the early Bible Students studied is to the so-called “study of the Bible with the aid of the Watchtower”, that is the “primary” spiritual food for Witnesses today. Today everything is scripted and controlled. Such as:

  • Who asks the questions? – only an Elder chosen by his fellow elders to conduct the Watchtower, asking pre-prepared questions from a select group of men.
  • Who does any examination? – Virtually no one. The subject is already chosen by a group of men far, far away. The results of the examination are already provided in the Watchtower article, at least the examining that is wanted by the Organization.
  • Is every scripture related to that subject examined? – No. In fact, this never happens. Often a portion is taken out of context and applied as the Organization sees fit.
  • Is a record taken of their findings for future research or for personal use? – Rarely, the Watchtower article is only used when the Elders need some authority to use on a member of the Congregation
  • What would happen if a group of witnesses studied the Bible the way Bro Russell did? – They would be told to cease being independently minded and accept direction from the Governing Body. If they persisted, they would likely be disfellowshipped.

Paragraph 2 reminds us (accurately) that it can be one thing to learn what the Bible teaches about a certain doctrinal subject but quite another to discern correctly the meaning of a Bible prophecy. Why is that so? For one thing, Bible prophecies are often best understood when they are undergoing fulfillment or after they have been fulfilled”. 

The most obvious answer to this problem is not to try to understand prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. But that is some advice the Watchtower Organization will not listen too.

Especially with regard to understanding things yet to occur in the future, what do the scriptures say?

Jesus said to the Jews of his day in John 5:39 “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me.”. Yes, searching the scriptures for interpreting the future is fraught with danger. In doing so we can overlook the obvious right in front of us.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were always looking for signs. How did Jesus respond? Matthew 12:39 tells us “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except for the sign of Jonah the prophet”.

Even the disciples asked “what will be the sign [singular] of your presence” in Matthew 24:3. Jesus’ answer was in Matthew 24:30 “and then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven … and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. Yes, all mankind would not need to interpret, they would know it was fulfilled there and then.

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher once said

“Those who have knowledge don’t predict,

Those who predict don’t have knowledge”.

The Governing Body who predicts “we are in the last day of the last days” are predicting because they do not have knowledge. If they had knowledge that it was the last day they would not need to predict.

How can we know we are in the last day of the last days when Jesus said “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) If Jesus and the angels do not know it is the last day of the last days, then how can the Governing Body?

As a humorous, but sad aside:

Readers may remember that William Miller was the basis for Bro. C.T. Russell’s teaching that evolved from Miller’s 1844 for the return of Christ to 1874 into 1914. Did you know that the teachings of William Miller are still strong within parts of the Adventist movement? In fact, based on further enhancement of his theories, an Adventist has predicted that Islam will make a nuclear strike on Nashville, USA, on 18 July 2020, based on the prophecies of Ezekiel, Revelation, Daniel, and other scriptures. Oh, and do not forget the tie in with Mayan prophecy as well. Perhaps the alleged Moslems behind this alleged attack have a particular hatred of Country music! Why mention this? Because this is the level of ridiculousness that arises when one goes looking for and interpreting prophecy past and future in an attempt to read the future.[i] For good measure, some prophecies in the chain were allegedly fulfilled by an international camp meeting (reminiscent of 1918-1922 conventions of Bible Students![ii]) and a sermon by a church leader (reminiscent of talks by Russell and Rutherford).

Returning to the Watchtower article:

The article goes on to say “But there is another factor. To understand a prophecy correctly, we generally have to consider its context. If we focus on only one aspect of the prophecy and ignore the rest, we may draw the wrong conclusion. In hindsight, it seems that this has been the case with a prophecy in the book of Joel. Let us review that prophecy and discuss why an adjustment in our present understanding is needed”.

To understand a prophecy correctly, we generally have to consider its context! How about always consider the context, and even then, we may not be entitled by God and Jesus to understand it.  However, there is a pattern. The Organization rarely considers the context when [wrongly and vainly] trying to interpret prophecies, both past, and future. Here they own up to the fact that they have gotten it wrong about the prophecy of Joel 2:7-9.

Rather surprisingly they now apply Joel 2:7-9 (much more reasonably and in context) to the Babylonian destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, although doggedly holding to 607 BC as the time of its destruction, mentioning it twice where its inclusion was not necessary. However, they are still sticking to their interpretation of the account in Revelation 9:1-11, with which they previously linked Joel 2:7-9. It is interesting to see though that they may have tried to give themselves some wiggle room on their teaching about Revelation 9 as well. Note paragraph 8 says This does indeed appear to be a description of Jehovah’s anointed servants”, rather than ‘this is a description of Jehovah’s anointed servants”

The article goes on to give 4 reasons for an adjustment. When one looks at the reasons given, one wonders how many Witnesses have been disfellowshipped for apostasy for pointing out these same reasons, but before the Governing Body was prepared to confess their mistake.

There are no issues with any of the reasons given in those paragraphs 5-10 nor with the meaning now given in paragraphs 11-13.

The real issue is that it took so long to reach this conclusion. Even more galling is the claim that this is “new light”, emphasized by the song to be sung, song 95 “The light gets brighter”.

At the end of the day, the understanding is only reverting to what any independent reader of the scriptures would have understood if they had no bias towards identifying any and every prophecy with their own religion.

The Organization clearly has no knowledge either of what happened in the past, because of its blinkered and biased interpretation of scripture to apply it itself where possible nor of what will happen in the future.

Remember:

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher once said

“Those who have knowledge don’t predict,

Those who predict don’t have knowledge”.

Christ himself said “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day Your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42), yet the Organization has predicted Christ’s return, not once, but many times (1879, 1914, 1925, 1975, by 2000 (generation saw 1914), and now, “the last of the last days”.  They, therefore, clearly have no knowledge, and therefore cannot have the claimed but undefined special insight from God.

Did not Jesus warn us in Matthew 24:24 “For false anointed ones and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones [those with a right heart that God drew to him]”?

 

Footnotes:

For a discussion of Joel 2:28-32 mentioned in paragraph 15 please see https://beroeans.net/2017/10/30/2017-october-30-november-5-our-christian-life-and-ministry/

[i] Theodore Turner https://www.academia.edu/38564856/July_18_2020_Simple_with_Addendum.pdf

[ii] See Revelation, Its Grand Climax at Hand! Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (2006) Chapter 21, p133 para. 15.

Tadua

Articles by Tadua.
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