“Mankind has entered a period of judgment…a judgment of professed Christian organizations that has been apparent since ‘the last days’ got under way with the slaughter of World War I.”
-April 1, 1996, Watchtower-
A few months after being immersed in the waters of the Jordan by John the Baptizer, Jesus undertook his first sojourn to Jerusalem as the Messiah. Upon arriving for the passover festival Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out the merchants and overturned the tables of the moneychangers who had set up shop there, saying to them: “Take these things away from here! Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!”
During his last trip to Jerusalem, also on the passover festival, which ultimately led to his arrest, trial and execution, Jesus once again evicted the moneychangers and merchants from his Father’s house. No doubt to the astonishment of his disciples, immediately prior to his cleansing the temple the second time Jesus announced the coming destruction of both Jerusalem and the temple. The stated reason being: “Because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.” As the appointed Messiah, Jesus was the Inspector of his Father’s house and because of their deplorable lack of faith the majority of the Jews failed to pass that inspection.
However, a new temple was going to be constructed. No, not another temple made with wood and stones—this time a spiritual one. Jesus had previously spoken of this new “temple” on the occasion immediately after the first time he threw the moneychangers out of his Father’s house; when the Jews demanded to see a sign from him as proof of his authority from God, Jesus said to them: “Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews, of course, assumed that Jesus was speaking about the physical structure of Herod’s temple, and so they responded: “This temple was built in forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But the apostle John, who likely witnessed the conversation, later clarified what Jesus actually meant. At John 2:21-22 we read: “But he was talking about the temple of his body. When, though, he was raised up from the dead, his disciples called to mind that he used to say this; and they believed the Scripture and the saying that Jesus said.”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses know, Jesus was not speaking in literal terms when he spoke of “the temple of his body.” Jesus was alluding to the fact that the traditional form of worship centered on the temple in Jerusalem was going to become obsolete. After his resurrection Jesus himself was going to become the central figure in a completely new form of worship—in essence, he would become the temple, or at least the chief cornerstone of a great spiritual, temple-like organization.
The apostle Peter likened Christ’s spiritual congregation to a literal stone temple when he wrote at 1 Peter 2:4-6, saying: “Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.’”
The apostle Paul used the exact same analogy at Ephesians 2:20-22, saying: “You have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”
Just as the literal temple in Jerusalem came in line for Heaven’s inspection, God also will inspect the spiritual temple at the conclusion of the system of things. Actually, the apostle Peter indicated that all the prospective temple stones are continually under God’s judgment.
That is why Peter wrote the following: “For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God?”
According to the context of Peter’s epistle, the persecutions, sufferings and hardships that all Christians experience is part of the stone hewing and polishing process God has willed for the prospective members of his spiritual structure. Jehovah describes his method of dealing with his sons at Hosea 6:5: “That is why I shall have to hew them by the prophets; I shall have to kill them by the sayings of my mouth. And the judgments upon you will be as the light that goes forth.”
However, it is apparent that even though in one sense the appointed time for the judgment of the house of God had already begun in the first century and is ongoing, the Scriptures foretell of a final judgment period concurrent with the conclusion of the entire wicked system of things. Hence, in the second chapter of the same letter Peter wrote of a future day of inspection, saying: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for hisinspection.” Logically, the future “day for his inspection” is an immediate preliminary to Jehovah becoming king in the fullest sense.
According to the Watchtower article cited in the title caption of this chapter, Jehovah supposedly became king in 1914 and shortly thereafter is when the judgment presumably commenced—not only for the house of God, but even merely “professed Christian organizations” came in line for judgment as well. But more than that, the Watchtower also claims that God passed judgment upon all of Babylon the Great back in 1918-19, which includes non-Christian religions too. As recently as 1989, the Watchtower stated: “By 1919 it was apparent that Jehovah had passed judgment on Christendom—and indeed on all false religion.”
Negating their own teaching, in reality the Watchtower makes no distinction between the judgment that begins with the house of God and the period of judgment upon the world’s religions. The Watchtower’s assumption that by 1919 God had passed judgment on all religion is based upon the mere fact that a handful of prominent clergymen once hailed the League of Nations as “the political expression of God’s kingdom on earth.”
But, is it reasonable that God’s judgment started back in 1918-19? Moreover, is it true? First, though, it might be best to establish what is supposed to happen when Christ comes to inspect his Father’s spiritual house; then it can be better determined if those things have already occurred.
The prophecy of Malachi describes the coming of Jehovah’s messenger to the temple in easily understandable symbolic terms. Malachi 3:1-4 reads: ‘“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord, whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come,’ Jehovah of armies has said. But who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen. And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness. And the gift offering of Judah and of Jerusalem will actually be gratifying to Jehovah, as in the days of long ago and as in the years of antiquity. And I will come near to you people for the judgment, and I will become a speedy witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those swearing falsely, and against those acting fraudulently with the wages of a wage worker, with the widow and with the fatherless boy, and those turning away the alien resident, while they have not feared me, Jehovah of armies has said.”
The coming of the “messenger of the covenant” is obviously a very significant event in the outworking of God’s purpose. The foretold “messenger of the covenant” can be none other than Jesus Christ, since he is the messenger and mediator of a new covenant with anointed Christians. His coming as a laundryman and refiner is not in reference to his appearance on earth nearly 2,000 years ago.
As the verse above indicates, the coming of the messenger is “for the judgment.” But the initial phase of the judgment is not the judgment of mankind in general, as is implied in the April 1, 1996, Watchtower. The prophecy speaks to “the sons of Levi”—in other words, the cleansing pertains to the anointed congregation of Christ. They are likened to the “sons of Levi”—the Levitical priests—since they are to serve as priests in the kingdom of God. So, in answer to the question posed as to what happens when Christ comes to inspect the spiritual house of God, the answer is that Jesus initiates a thorough cleansing and purification of his congregation.
As strange as it may seem, the Watchtower actually teaches that the prophecy of Malachi has already been fulfilled. As recently as the year 2000, the Watchtower published the following comment on the third chapter of Malachi:
“It pointed to the time when Jehovah God would come to his spiritual temple accompanied by his “messenger of the covenant,” Jesus Christ. This evidently happened at the end of World War I. Jehovah inspected all of those claiming to be Christians, sifting the true from the false.” (Volume I commentary on Isaiah, Page 33)
“Evidently” Christ came during World War I to refine and cleanse his people? Upon what evidence does the Watchtower base their bold assumption? The same commentary goes on to answer:
“In 1919, Jehovah’s modern-day people emerged from the period of testing. They were delivered from spiritual bondage to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. The distinction between that faithful anointed remnant and the apostate clergy of Christendom became clear.”
True, the coming of the messenger has to do with cleansing and refining God’s people from their own errors and spiritual uncleanness. But if Jesus Christ came as the foretold laundryman and refiner during World War I, then we would expect to see an organization cleansed of all moral and spiritual corruption. Do we?
Another question: While the Watchtower claims there is a clear distinction between the “faithful anointed remnant and the apostate clergy of Christendom”—is there, really?
For example, for decades the Watchtower has lambasted the clergy of Christendom for their political support of the United Nations. However, as documented in the chapter “Strange Bedfellows,” the Watchtower Society also became involved in a secret political partnership with the United Nations by serving the UN as an associate level NGO for ten years. Since the Watchtower claims to be the voice of the anointed remnant, the only discernible difference between Christendom and the anointed in this respect is that many of the churches of Christendom have openly endorsed the United Nations, while the Watchtower has done so secretly—hypocritically.
Then, take the matter of adultery: The prophecy of Malachi says that the messenger “will become a speedy witness against…the adulterers.” This harmonizes with Hebrews 13:4, which says, “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” So, if Christ became a “speedy witness” against those practicing adultery back in 1918, how is it that the organization today is rife with fornicators and adulterers? Even the Watchtower admits that tens of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses are disfellowshipped every year for sexual immorality. Countless others live double lives and are never found out. So, in what way has Christ been a “speedy witness” against them?
Immoral sexual relations between consenting adults is bad enough, but in recent years thousands of children in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been victimized by depraved sexual predators—pedophilic Jehovah’s Witnesses. Worse, many of the grown victims and their advocates feel as though the Watchtower’s policies are directly responsible for shielding sexual predators from exposure.
Incredibly, while the Society’s public relations department downplays such crimes against children by claiming that the scourge of pedophilia is no worse among Jehovah’s Witnesses than that found in any other religious organization, the Watchtower still unblushingly claims to be Jehovah’s “clean organization” that has been set apart from the defiled religionists of Christendom.
Thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, ought to ask why the Lord Jesus Christ is such an ineffective refiner and cleanser of his Father’s spiritual house. Of course, the preferred alternative to such blasphemy is to recognize that Christ has not yet come as a laundryman. And admittedly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have quite a load of ‘dirty laundry’ that requires his attention.
“I SHALL SMELT AWAY YOUR SCUMMY DROSS”
What does the verse mean that says: “And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver…and he must clarify them like gold and like silver”? Elsewhere in prophecy Jehovah uses the very same analogy to illustrate how he intends to refine his people of their scummy dross-like impurities. For example, Isaiah 1:25-28 says: “And I will turn back my hand upon you, and I shall smelt away your scummy dross as with lye, and I will remove all your waste products. And I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town. With justice Zion herself will be redeemed, and those returning of her, with righteousness. And the crash of revolters and that of sinful ones will be at the same time, and those leaving Jehovah will come to their finish.”
We are informed by the Watchtower’s Insight on the Scriptures that laundryman’s lye was also used in smelting metals. When refining silver, in order to separate it from base metals such as tin and copper, sometimes the refiner would throw lye into the crucible to consolidate the molten metals floating on the surface. That material was then skimmed off as scummy dross, leaving behind pure molten silver.
True to form, the Watchtower applies this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy to the 1918-19 period. But the comparison simply does not stand up to scrutiny. The most obvious deficiency in the Watchtower’s interpretation is the fact that Jehovah originally accomplished the refining of his national organization by allowing the Babylonian armies to wreak total destruction upon the wayward Judean kingdom. Those who were in revolt against Jehovah were simply destroyed. They were skimmed off as so much scummy dross. Only a chastened and refined remnant was allowed to return from Babylonian exile to rebuild and re-inhabit Jerusalem.
But how can that compare with what occurred in 1918? Really, there is no comparison. While it is true that the International Bible Students went through an intense period of turmoil back then; still, the brief incarceration of eight Watchtower officials does not even begin to parallel the disasters that Jehovah brought upon the Jews in the fifth century and again in 70 CE. The fact of the matter is, not one of the International Bible Students even lost their life during the period when Jehovah’s fiery purge was supposed to have taken place. And if God’s awesome judgment was accomplished in 1918, why is it that revolters and apostates have still not “come to their finish,” as the prophecy describes?
Jehovah also used the very same imagery in the prophecy of Ezekiel, where we read: “Son of man, to me those of the house of Israel have become as scummy dross. All of them are copper and tin and iron and lead in the midst of a furnace. Much scummy dross, that of silver, they have become. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘For the reason that all of you have become as much scummy dross, therefore here I am collecting you together into the midst of Jerusalem. As in collecting silver and copper and iron and lead and tin into the midst of a furnace, in order to blow upon it with fire to cause a liquefying, so I shall collect them together in my anger and in my rage, and I will blow and cause you people to liquefy. And I will bring you together and blow upon you with the fire of my fury, and you must be liquefied in the midst of her. As in the liquefying of silver in the midst of a furnace, so you people will be liquefied in the midst of her; and you will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have poured out my rage upon you.’”
As another instance of interpretive inconsistency, the Watchtower applies Isaiah’s prophecy of the “scummy dross” to the events that befell the Bible Students back in 1918, but they apply Ezekiel’s prophecy to the destruction of apostate Christendom during the final tribulation. However, neither prophetic interpretation is in harmony with the Bible.
The apostle Paul similarly wrote concerning a day of fiery trial that is destined to come upon Christ’s congregation—consuming all that is inferior: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, it will be as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
The inspired apostle’s illustration completely harmonizes with Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is, therefore, evident that all Christians living at the time of Christ’s inspection will be “liquefied” in the blast furnace of God’s heated anger. In both illustrations only the precious metals will remain after the judgment is concluded. No doubt the Watchtower’s cherished 1914 dogma will be incinerated as mere hay and stubble during the day of fire.
Surely none of Jehovah’s Witnesses are so unreasonable so as to insist that the day of fire has already taken place! In reality, there is nothing in Christian history that fulfills the pattern of the prophecies. Reasonably, then, the fiery desolation and subsequent restoration of antitypical Jerusalem has not already taken place. No doubt the disgusting thing that causes desolation will be instrumental in carrying out the modern parallel.
Returning to the prophecy of Malachi, consider the rhetorical question posed by the prophet: “But who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears?” Jesus echoed those words on two occasions when he spoke of the trials associated with his second coming. For instance, warning his disciples of the severity of the coming tribulation, Jesus said at Luke 21: 34: “For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”
Not even the Watchtower teaches that the great tribulation has already come “upon the face of all the earth,” as Christ foretold. That being the case, it remains to be seen who will succeed in faithfully “standing before the Son of man.” Yet, why is it that the Watchtower boasts that the prophecy of Malachi was long ago fulfilled when a few thousand Bible Students were supposedly made to stand before Christ in 1918?
Furthermore, at Luke 18:8 Jesus posed a similar question as is found in Malachi, when he asked: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”
Since the Watchtower claims that Christ arrived for the judgment back in 1914, and the faithful slave class received his unqualified approval in 1919—having been appointed over all of the master’s belongings then—the Watchtower has unwittingly rendered Christ’s question more or less irrelevant. That is so because by following the Watchtower’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, it means there is no longer any need for any of Christ’s prospective bride class to even stay on the watch any longer for the master’s return.
Of course, none of Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever admit that, but because of having misapplied vitally important prophecies to times past, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no scriptural basis for anticipating the unveiling of God’s future judgments.
WHO IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?
Jesus repeatedly stressed the importance of his disciples staying awake and responsive to his sudden thief-like arrival. At Luke 12:35-40, Jesus illustrated his coming by saying: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them thus, happy are they! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have kept watching and not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”
Even a casual reading of Jesus’ illustration ought to impress upon the reader that the timing of his coming is unknowable and that Jesus was emphasizing upon his disciples that a future day of reckoning and accounting lay ahead for the members of God’s household who would be on earth when the master suddenly arrives. However, as already stated in connection with other prophecies, the Watchtower’s interpretation of this simple illustration has rendered Christian watchfulness entirely unnecessary since Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus’ thief-like coming already occurred back in 1914. Even though some Watchtower articles also apply the parable to a future coming of Christ, the fundamental teaching is that the faithful slave has already been appointed over all the master’s belongings, which clearly contradicts Christ’s parable.
To illustrate the point, a Watchtower article written over 50 years ago states:
“The world events since A.D. 1914, and particularly the events among Jehovah’s people since A.D. 1918, give visible evidence that the Lord Jesus Christ, having come into his kingdom, has come to God’s spiritual temple to carry on the final judgment at the “house of God” and, in expression of his judgment work, he has found a “faithful and discreet slave” and has appointed him over all his belongings, all his visible Kingdom interests on earth. Hence in order to render complete recognition of the theocratic organization today, we have to take recognition of this “faithful and discreet slave” that the returned Lord and Judge has appointed over all his belongings.” (Watchtower 9-1-1954)
The Watchtower’s teaching has not changed in a half-century. Hence, an article in the January 15, 2001 reads:
“The faithful slave has been ‘appointed over all his master’s belongings.’ These include facilities at headquarters in New York State, U.S.A., and the 110 branches now operating worldwide. The members of the slave class know that they will be called upon to render an account for the way in which they have used what has been entrusted to them.”
The above statement is not accurate. First, the Watchtower states that the faithful slave has been appointed over all of the facilities of the Society. But even assuming that the Governing Body represents the worldwide body of anointed Christians, the Governing Body does not control the various legal entities and facilities that come under the umbrella of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Incorporated. In 2000 the Governing Body resigned from positions on the seven-member Board of Directors and entrusted complete control and ownership of the Society to a board made up exclusively of non-anointed individuals. For example, Don Adams—a non-Governing body member—is the current president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Incorporated. The Governing Body no longer has any legal authority as regards the operation and ownership of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Inc.
The implications of these actions are that the Governing Body has made Christ’s anointed congregation, which has supposedly already been appointed over all the master’s belongings, subject to the Board of Directors of the Watchtower Inc. But the question is: How likely is it that Jesus would consent to his faithful slave abdicating their control over “his belongings” to persons not even professing to be of the so-called slave class? It is unthinkable that Christ would sanction such actions.
While Watchtower officials steadfastly maintain that they have already been appointed “over all of his belongings,” a sensible interpretation of the Scriptures indicates otherwise. According to a straightforward reading of Jesus’ illustration, there are two appointments of the slave, but only one arrival of the master. What does that mean? Consider: After Jesus exhorted his disciples to stay on the watch and be prepared for his return, Peter asked Jesus to whom the illustration applied. In reply Christ asked the question: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
In the quoted verse above the phrase “will appoint” appears twice. The first appointment by the master places his slave “over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies.” Based upon whether or not the slave is faithful to his commission, the master then appoints the slave “over all his belongings”—a second appointment. The crucial question is this: When does the master appoint the slave “over all his belongings”? The text clearly indicates the second appointment takes place upon the master’s “arriving” as a thief in the night. Another pertinent question is this: How many times does the master “arrive”? Reasonably, there is only one arrival.
In the original illustration about the bridegroom returning from the marriage, Jesus used the words “arriving,” “arrive” and “coming.” The point was to impress upon his disciples the need to stay in expectation of the master’s eventual arrival. Only those slaves who are found in faithful anticipation will be appointed over all of the Lord’s possessions. So, the Watchtower’s interpretation is in error. If Jesus’ thief-like arrival has not taken place yet, which it most assuredly has not—then neither has the master appointed his faithful slave “over all his belongings.”
What is more, when the faithful slave has finally been appointed over all of his master’s belongings, that appointment is irrevocable. Jesus gave numerous other illustrations, such as the parable of the talents, which indicates that Christ’s anointed disciples are entrusted with the master’s money and are judged as to their faithfulness in handling the master’s silver in his absence. And just like the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave, the slaves judged to have been faithful in the discharge of their fiduciary duties are entrusted with more of the master’s assets. It is worth noting, too, that Jesus also prefaced the parable of the talents by saying: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Another important similarity between the parable of the talents and the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave is that both prophetic stories feature a wicked slave who is ultimately condemned and stripped of his privileges and thrown out, where he weeps and gnashes his teeth—like unfaithful Judas did before he destroyed himself. In spite of the obvious parallels between the two illustrations the Watchtower assigns the fulfillment of the parable of the talents to the future, at least in principle; all the while doggedly insisting that the related parable of the faithful and the evil slave was fulfilled in 1918. Even more contradictory, the 2001 Watchtower, previously quoted, stated:
“The members of the slave class know that they will be called upon to render an account for the way in which they have used what has been entrusted to them.”
There most certainly is a future day of accounting before Jehovah, but if “the members of the slave class” have already been appointed over all things, as the Watchtower claims, then according to Christ’s illustrations both the faithful and unfaithful slaves have already rendered an account of themselves before Jesus.
Again, what accounts for the Watchtower’s contradictory interpretations of Christ’s parables? There are several factors that weigh heavily. One, the organization has apparently gone beyond what is written in an attempt to establish absolute interpretive authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses. By claiming to have already been appointed over all the master’s belongings, instead of merely being a humble servant feeding his fellow slaves, the Watchtower is intent on establishing unchallengeable authority as Jehovah’s sole channel of communication.
The popular view among Jehovah’s Witnesses is that anyone who does not accept the Watchtower’s every utterance as being true is rejecting the slave’s authority, which may not be the case at all.
Secondly, if the illustration is taught correctly it indicates that the faithful slave and the evil slave co-exist in the same household up until Jesus arrives as a thief in the night. If the Watchtower were to admit that the faithful slave has not yet been appointed over all the Lord’s belongings, it would require them to also come to terms with the fact that not all the slaves in the house of God are faithful.
The truth is, Christ’s congregation is presided over by both faithful and unfaithful slaves up until the very moment the master unexpectedly arrives for the inspection. No wonder Jesus framed his discussion of the slaves of the household in the form of the thought-provoking question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?”
The answer will not be apparent until Jesus actually distinguishes his faithful slave and dismisses the unfaithful slave during the initial phase of the parousia and the judgment of the house of God.