“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.
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]”?
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.
Bonjour a tous Petite anecdote : Ma mère qui est toujours temoin de Jéhovah a fait part à un ancien de son scepticisme face à l’explication des criquets de la Révélation. Il lui a répondu : oh ! Il ne faut pas que tu t’occupes de ça ; c’est l’explication d’aujourd’hui ;dans quelques temps ça changera peut-être… ” Incroyable! Il ne faut pas s’occuper de ce qu’écrit le Collège central à des millions de personnes ! Cet ancien fait partie de ceux qui m’ont excommuniée parce que je n’étais pas d’accord avec ce que dit” le canal de Dieu “.… Read more »
Am I missing something ? Why Babylon ? Surely the Northerner is Assyria. Joel 2:20 states that the northerner will be driven far away from you. IS this not what happened in Hezekiah’s day.
Apart from this Joel is written somewhere around 800 BCE, and the next power on the scene was Assyria, conquering the 10 tribe Kingdom Samaria and losing its 185000 army in Hezekiah’s day. These events took place long before Babylon’s conquest.
Joel speaks of devastation, but is it a warning of what would happen if Israel did not change ?
How they ever thought locusts applied to their preaching work is astounding to me. Just two verses after introducing the locusts, it is very obvious God is talking about an enemy. 4 What was left by the devouring locust, the swarming locust has eaten; And what was left by the swarming locust, the unwinged locust has eaten; And what the unwinged locust has left, the voracious locust has eaten. 5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine drinkers, Because the sweet wine has been taken from your mouths. 6 For a nation has come up into my land, mighty… Read more »
The WT article still holds the locusts of Rev 9 to be JWs, but is saying that the locusts of Joel chapters 1 & 2 could not prefigure them because the locusts of Joel 1 & 2 (per the WT) prefigure the Babylonian invasion. The WT doesn’t mention this, but that idea (that the locusts of Joel 1 & 2 picture the Babylonian invasion), that idea goes as far back as some of the early church ‘fathers.’ A number of commentators argue (and quite persuasively) that the locusts of Joel 1 & 2 were, … wait for it … a… Read more »
Dans l’encadré « Je répandrai mon esprit »
Pourquoi ne nous disent-ils pas plutôt combien il y avait de oints en 1935, avant que tout à coup, ils ne soient plus des oints de l’esprit ?
I loved the box “I Will Pour Out My Spirit”. In paragraph 1, they mention 3000 getting baptized at Pentecost and have Acts 21:20 where thousands became believers is mentioned in connection with the nations as well. They leave out the 5000 in Acts 4:4. So within a few weeks, the numbers were 3000 + 5000 = 8000. These saw signs and miracles and had a direct witness from the Apostles. In paragraph 3, they state that there were less than 6000 publishers in 1919 and that since 1983, on average 144,000 are baptized annually. Is this a gross or… Read more »
“The most obvious answer to this problem is not to try to understand prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled”………thank you Tadua for this
Whenever the ORG keep trying to understand what has not yet been fulfilled, they give us load of PREDICTIONS, ASSUMPTIONS, SPECULATIONS, MAYBE, LIKELY and in local palace here in this part of the world…………( E FIT BE SEY)…….pidgin English. Which will backed with EVIDENTLY OBVIOUSLY.
Thanks for the review
Just for kicks, I read the commentary on Revelation 9 in the “Revelation Climax” book. I couldn’t believe how fanciful the interpretation was. They would have been far more rational to keep the Joel parallel and reject the identity of the anointed in both passages. It just doesn’t make sense. It would do nothing to their theology as far as I can tell if they just interpreted the locusts in Rev. 9 as military force or something like that.
Hi Michael. I assume you are the same Michael J Felker who has been reviewing the Watchtower articles on the site with your name on it. If so, welcome. Your comments were excellent, as they usually are. You do very well to see all these flaws.
Yes, that’s me! Thanks for your encouragement. Though I rarely comment here, i’ve been following Eric Wilson’s website since day 1.
Ils nous expliquent, chose inouïe, que pendant un siècle d’étude, le GB choisi par Dieu et établi en 1919 pour diriger son peuple, N’AVAIT PAS BIEN LU LE CONTEXTE ! Pendant ce temps, et même bien avant, la lumière était déjà faite sur le sujet, par différents commentateurs bibliques. Le commentaire de Calvin disait The Northlander,  he says, will I remove far from you. The Chaldeans and the Assyrians, we know, were northward of Judea. De même le commentaire de Cambridge in which case the epithet Northern would very naturally be applied to them (the Chaldaeans, though Babylon is… Read more »
Tour de Garde dit que les criquets de la Révélation ce sont les oints. ( encadré : “Ils représentent les serviteurs OINTS de Jéhovah qui proclament courageusement ses jugements.” ) Rev 9 : 4,5 dit “Ils ont reçu le pouvoir de tourmenter les ‘humains qui n’ont pas le sceau de Dieu sur leurs fronts’ (c’est-à-dire les ennemis de Dieu) pendant cinq mois, la durée de vie moyenne d’un criquet” (copie du paragraphe) Donc ils SAVENT QUI A LE SCEAU DE DIEU !!! Et qui ne l’a pas puisqu’ils peuvent les tourmenter ! D’un côté ils disent que la séparation des… Read more »
There was a site called “Watchtower flip-flops where they said such and such is so and then recanted that a time later only to go back later still to the first line of belief. This king of the North thing featured in that I recall. I don’t know if that site is still running.
Ils devraient préciser ce que pensait Russell au sujet de la mise en commun des réflexions bibliques. Aucun chrétien n’était excommunié pour avoir exprimé une opinion différente, ou ne pas avoir suivi son point de vue, celui de l’esclave fidèle et avisé de l’époque. Russell considérait une religion qui excommunie, comme une organisation humaine. C’est ce que fait aujourd’hui le GB envers toute personne qui n’adhère pas à ses croyances, MÊME QUAND IL SE TROMPE. Voici ce que disait Russell. ÉTUDE DES ÉCRITURES Vol 5 p 208,209. NOUS LAISSONS AU VIGNERON LE SOIN D’ÉMONDER LA VIGNE (de corriger chaque vrai… Read more »
Very very interesting discussion presented. They are really giving the impression that we are all to be free spirited in our study of the scriptures except do not come to a different conclusion than the official one from the GB or suffer the consequences.
This is a clear devious tactic to convince people of their so called loving way of giving direction to Gods people. If only we could all be free as Bro Russel was in openness of understanding the bible – in that sense he had some things right.
Nice reasoned out article tho and thanks for sharing!