Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to the faith as “the truth.” For example, it is not at all uncommon to hear expressions like: “How long have you been in the truth?” Or – “How did you find the truth?” Or, “Brother So-and-so left the truth.” Actually, Jesus coined the expression “in the truth” when he said in reference to the Devil: “He did not stand fast in the truth.” It ought to be sobering that the Devil was himself once in the truth—once a loyal son and worshipper of Jehovah.
Obviously, finding the truth and merely knowing the truth is no guarantee of remaining “in the truth.” The potential always exists for Christians to be stumbled and abandon their faith. Even the apostles were all momentarily stumbled and scattered on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Entire congregations can stumble as is reflected in Paul’s question to the Galatians, where he asked: “You were running well. Who hindered you from keeping on obeying the truth?”
The stumbling block for the Galatians was the divisive issue of circumcision. But a stumbling block can be anything that causes one to question their faith or view the truth in a negative way or deviate from the course previously followed.
Oftentimes the stumbling blocks come from outside the congregation in the form of outright persecution or subtle family opposition. In his illustration of the sower and the seed, Jesus illustrated how some individuals may initially accept the truth with joy and continue “for a time, and after tribulation or persecution has arisen on account of the word he is at once stumbled.” For a fact, millions of people around the world have studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses and have believed it to be the truth, not a few even becoming Witnesses themselves, but because of having no depth of knowledge or appreciation, they are unable or unwilling to stand up to the inevitable ridicule and persecution that comes upon anyone who endeavors to take a genuine stand for the truth.
Unfortunately, though, many of the stumbling blocks come from within the congregations in the form of unkindnesses and thoughtless, unchristian behavior on the part of brothers. It is especially difficult to deal with such acts on the part of men in authority. Those stumbled by such things usually reason to themselves that ‘if this is the way people act in the truth then this cannot be the truth.’ Such reasoning, however, does not take into account that the Christian Greek Scriptures warn Christians to be on guard against stumbling over the faults of others. Christians need to be realistic in that respect and recognize that there are a lot of problems, even in the truth, especially if one is prone to look for the faults of others.
Jesus acknowledged that such stumbling blocks are inevitable, but he also warned of the awful outcome for those throughwhom they come, saying a Luke 17:1: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come. Nevertheless, woe to the one through whom they come! It would be of more advantage to him if a millstone were suspended from his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to stumble one of these little ones.”
Although there exists a veritable mountain of damning accusations against the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, particularly on the Internet, fortunately most of Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware of the many stumbling blocks advertised by those who have already been stumbled from the truth. The desperate, blaring, megaphone-style methods of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses outside of conventions, for example, are viewed as little more than carnival sideshow, oddities by most witnesses.
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually be directly exposed to potentially lethal stumbling blocks that the Watchtower itself has laid before all. By briefly considering a few prophecies Jehovah's Witnesses may gain some needed insight into what the future holds.
Consider the prophecy of Malachi: Although originally set in the context of the restored Jewish priesthood, the prophecy really pertains to the future kings and priests of Christ’s kingdom at the time Christ arrives to commence his judgment. That is evident from the entire third and fourth chapters, where Christ is introduced to as the coming messenger of Jehovah’s covenant, who sets God’s house into order as a prelude to the finale. Malachi 3:5 specifically refers to Christ’s judgment, where it says: “I will come near to you people for the judgment.” It should be obvious that no such judgment occurred in the 1st century or any time since then. That the foretold judgment purges God’s people from all corrupting influences, as the prophecy makes plain, is proof that the judgment is yet future.
The 2nd chapter of Malachi, verses 5-7, also speaks of Christ as a God-fearing high priest and messenger of the new covenant, saying of him: “As for my covenant, it proved to be with him, one of life and of peace, and I kept giving them to him, with fear. And he continued fearing me; yes, because of my name he himself was struck with terror. The very law of truth proved to be in his mouth, and there was no unrighteousness to be found on his lips. In peace and in uprightness he walked with me, and many were those whom he turned back from error. For the lips of a priest are the ones that should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of armies.”
Seeing that Christ is the messenger of a new covenant and a priest “according to the manner of Melchizedek,” and not according to the manner of birth as was the Levitical priesthood, it is evident that the priests whom Jehovah denounces in the following eighth verse are in reality the anointed priests of the faithful slave and not the actual sons of Levi. Verse eight reads: “But you men—you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble in the law. You have ruined the covenant of Levi…” Ezekiel contains a similar prophetic denunciation, where we read at Ezekiel 36:15: “And I shall cause no further humiliating talk by the nations to be heard concerning you, and reproach by peoples you will bear no more, and your nations you will no more cause to stumble…”
The context of Ezekiel’s prophecy is the spiritual restoration of Jehovah’s people, which comes as an immediate prelude to the final assault of Gog of Magog. That being the case, then, the nations that spiritual Israel causes to stumble must be the many so-called other sheep of the nations. That is in harmony with Jesus’ own prophetic forecast that foretells that during the conclusion “many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another.” Keep in mind that being stumbled does not necessarily mean that the one stumbled abandons their faith.For instance, the apostles were all stumbled when Jesus was arrested.
It is regrettable that so many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been stumbled by goings-on in their local congregations and as a result of inconsistencies and hypocrisy of the Watchtower Society. The greatest tests of faith, however, are yet to come. That is because Jehovah’s Witnesses are facing the unanticipated implosion of the Watchtower organization itself.
Many accusers, no doubt the Devil included, have leveled the charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses are mere brainwashed cultic followers of the Watchtower. The collapse and humiliation of the Watchtower will result in a test of faith that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. While many apparently do not possess genuine Christ-like faith apart from their association with the Watchtower—many do. For that reason Jehovah is pleased to allow tests of such severity.
Being in the truth means having faith, not in men or in any so-called visible organization, but in God and his Word. However, the solution is not in separating from the organization and going it alone. The apostle John writes, saying that the preventative to stumbling is love of the brothers. John 2:10-11 reads: “He that loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in his case. But he that hates his brother is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Rather than allowing the Watchtower’s stumbling blocks to ruin your faith in God, it is better to appreciate the opportunity you have been given to demonstrate your faith under test. And rather than letting festering feelings of betrayal and resentment to cause you to become estranged from family and friends, love for your brothers will enable you to be a source of strength and encouragement for them during the ultimate time of stumbling oncoming.
Jehovah is pleased to allow the stumbling, just as he allowed the testing of Job and the apostles, because he knows that we have the potential to rise above it. He knows that love never fails.
While the Devil would have you believe that the Watchtower has misled Jehovah’s Witnesses into the wilderness, you have the opportunity to prove him a liar. If you have availed yourself of what the Watchtower has provided, that being knowledge of the truth, and you have developed your own personal relationship with God and Christ, you are in a position to serve as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a very special way. By your faith remaining intact through the collapse of the Watchtower during the conclusion of the system, you will demonstrate to all observers that Jehovah is your God. Is not that the cause to which you dedicated yourselves to in the first place?
Lastly, the closing words of Jude seem particularly appropriate: “Now to the one who is able to guard you from stumbling and to set you unblemished in the sight of his glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority for all past eternity and now and into all eternity. Amen.”