The following is a hypothetical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a person who is knowledgable of the Bible, as opposed to the typical householder. Let us imagine that a Witness named Cameron has returned to the home of a man named Robert. This rebuttal is based upon the November 2014 Watchtower edition for the public
Cameron: It’s good to see you again, Robert. How have you been?
Robert: I’ve been fine, thanks.
Cameron: I’m glad you’re doing well. The last time I was here, we talked about why Jehovah’s Witnesses say that God’s Kingdom began ruling in 1914. As we discussed, we find a key piece of evidence in a prophecy in chapter 4 of the Bible book of Daniel. Do you recall what is recorded there?
Robert: Yes, of course. It was King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a big tree that was chopped down and banded with metal to prevent it’s regeneration for a period of time.
Cameron: Yes, exactly. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw an immense tree that reached clear to heaven. He heard a messenger of God command that the tree be cut down, but its stump and roots were to be left in the ground. After a period of “seven times,” the tree would grow again.We also discussed why the prophecy has two fulfillments. Do you remember what the initial fulfillment was?
Robert: God caused Nebuchadnezzar to lose his mind and he was driven from his throne to live like an animal for seven years, but then Jehovah restored his sanity and his throne. And the King of Babylon acknowledged that Jehovah was supreme.
Cameron: Precisely. Nebuchadnezzar temporarily lost his sanity, so his rulership was interrupted. But in the larger fulfillment of the prophecy, God’s rulership would in a way be interrupted for a period of seven times. As we saw, the seven times began when Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. From then on, there were no more kings on earth who represented Jehovah God in ruling his people. However, at the end of the seven times, God would appoint a new Ruler over his people—someone in heaven. In other words, the end of the seven times would mark the start of the rulership of God’s heavenly Kingdom. Now, we already discussed when the seven times started. So if we can determine how long they lasted, then we will know when God’s Kingdom began ruling. Are you with me so far?
Robert: Well, no; not really. There’s nothing in the Bible that allows us to definitively say that the seven times has a greater application or that it began when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. The Watchtower is making an assumption and that can get a little tricky.
Cameron: Um, well, I’ll look into that. But setting that aside for now, let’s consider the length of the seven times. I’ve just finished reading up on this subject to remind myself of the key points. I’ll try to explain them as well as I can.
Robert: Okay, sure.
Cameron: In the prophecy’s initial fulfillment involving Nebuchadnezzar, the seven times were evidently seven literal years. But in the larger fulfillment involving God’s Kingdom, the seven times must be much longer than seven literal years.
Robert: Why do you say that?
Cameron: For one thing, recall that the seven times began when Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. If we start counting from that year, seven literal years would take us to the year 600 B.C.E. But nothing significant happened in that year with regard to God’s rulership. Besides, as we considered before, centuries later when Jesus was here on earth, he indicated that the seven times had not yet ended.
Robert: Now hold on a minute, Cameron. Be careful. Jesus didn’t mention anything about seven times – neither a beginning or ending. Where are you getting that?
Cameron: Well, Jesus actually did refer to the seven times in the 21st chapter of Luke.
Robert: Okay, I know where you’re going. You are going to tell me that when Jesus spoke of Jerusalem being trampled on by the nations until the appointed times for the nations have ended that he was somehow alluding to the seven times connected to Nebuchadnezzar’s madness.
Cameron: That’s right.
Robert: Okay, if you believe that to be true, please answer a question for me.
Cameron: Sure. I’ll try.
Robert: Imagine you were one of the apostles who were listening to Jesus discuss the events that would lead up to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Keep in mind a few days before Jesus had told the disciples that the temple was going to be thrown down and not a stone would remain standing upon a stone. Naturally, the Jewish disciples were shocked and wanted to know when this disaster was going to befall their beloved temple and the city that they called “home.” That is why they said, “tell us, when will these things be?” Wouldn’t you have asked a similar question had you had the opportunity?
In response Jesus spoke of Jerusalem being violated by a disgusting thing, as foretold by Daniel, and when the disciples saw that they were to flee the doomed city without delay. Jesus went on to say that the city would be surrounded by armies with pointed stakes and experience a great tribulation unlike anything before. Now, Cameron, here’s the question: If you were one of those disciples who had asked Jesus about the future of the temple and the city, would you have understood Jesus’ response to be in reference to the destruction that had come upon Jerusalem five centuries before, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar?
Cameron: Well, no, of course not. But that is not the way the Watchtower explains it. You see, Jesus went on to speak about the appointed times. And, see, that expression “times” must refer to the seven times.
Robert: And you think the apostles who were listening to Jesus when he spoke of Jerusalem being trampled on by the nations until the appointed times had ended understood him to be saying that Jerusalem was already being trampled upon by the nations?
Cameron: Well, in a sense, yes. You know the Jews were under Roman occupation at the time. They had no king since Jerusalem had been destroyed in 607.
Robert: But do you think if you had been standing there on the Mount of Olives with the apostles when Jesus was foretelling the coming end of Jerusalem that you would have understood Jesus to be talking about a trampling that Jerusalem was already experiencing? Or do you think the apostles would have understood Jesus to be foretelling a future trampling?
Cameron: Well, I see your point. I can’t say for sure. But we know the seven times applies to a much greater length of time then the seven years.
Robert: Okay. Fair enough. I won’t press you on the point. But it is something to think about.
Cameron: Yes. But the Bible book of Revelation, which is closely connected with the book of Daniel, helps us to determine exactly how long the seven times are. It identifies a period of three and a half times as amounting to 1,260 days. Thus, seven times—twice the amount of three and a half times—would equal 2,520 days. Are you still with me?
Robert: Yes. I am aware of the interconnections between the prophecy of Daniel and the chronology in Revelation. But I would caution you about jumping to conclusions. Just because three and a half times is half of seven times, where is the biblical justification for the algebraic equation that doubles 1,260 days? And keep in mind that we are talking about 1,260 days, not years.
Cameron: OK, but sometimes in Bible prophecy, a day symbolizes a year. If we apply the rule of a day for a year, the seven times would amount to 2,520 years. Counting forward from 607 B.C.E., 2,520 years takes us to the year 1914. That’s how we arrive at 1914 as the year that the seven times ended, the start of Jesus’ rule as King of God’s Kingdom. And significantly, since 1914, major world events have happened—events that the Bible foretold for the last days.
Robert: When it comes to applying a rule “a day for a year,” or whatever, we need to be absolutely sure that the “rule” is intended to be applied. Otherwise, we might be accepting a manmade “rule” that is misleading.
Cameron: Yes, but, the evidence is overwhelming. Consider what Jesus said, as recorded here at Matthew 24:7. Concerning the time when he would start ruling in heaven, Jesus said: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” Notice that Jesus foretold food shortages and earthquakes during that time period. Our world has certainly seen a lot of that kind of trouble in the past century, hasn’t it?
Robert: I suppose so.
Cameron: In this verse, Jesus also foretold warfare during his presence as King of God’s Kingdom. And the Bible book of Revelation foretold not just local warfare but wars that would affect the whole earth during the time of the end. Do you recall when the first world war broke out?
Robert: I am aware that the First World War began in 1914. But just because men have labeled it as a “world war” does not necessarily mean that Revelation was fulfilled that refers to peace being taken away from the earth. Keep in mind that WWI was originally called the Great War. And it was fought almost entirely on the continent of Europe – mostly in France. True, soldiers were drawn from many nations, mostly, though, throughout the realm of the sprawling British Empire.
But, let’s get real here: Are you intending to say that there cannot be an instance in the future when nations and kingdoms go to war on a global scale? Because, now the nations possess the capability to literally take peace away from the whole earth. There are intercontinental ballistic missiles and stealth bombers and drones that can rain down fire and destruction anywhere on earth in a matter of a couple of hours, at most.
And I don’t know if you are keeping up with current events, Cameron, but the nations appear to be lining up for a major war – and the nations that are in conflict are all nuclear powers. There is even talk of a third world war.
Cameron: I know. I’ve been watching the news about what is going to in Ukraine and the Middle East. It’s scary. But, we can rule out the possibility of there being World War Three. Jehovah wouldn’t allow it; because, like you say, the nations now have nuclear weapons, but a nuclear war would destroy the whole earth and make it uninhabitable. But the Bible says the meek will inherit the earth. So, we can be sure God is not going to allow another big war.
Robert: I can appreciate that. But didn’t Jesus foretell that men will become so terrified that they will be faint from fright? What might be the cause of that kind of terror? And didn’t Jesus also foretell that the tribulation will be unlike anything that has ever or will ever afflict mankind and if God did not intervene to cut it short no flesh would survive? That sounds to me like God is going to allow the nations to go to the very brink of annihilation before he steps in and puts a stop to it.
Cameron: Hmmm, well, we know Babylon the great is going to be destroyed at the beginning of the tribulation, and…
Robert: Wait a minute, Cam. Where does it say that?
Cameron: In Revelation. It mentions a wild beast destroying a harlot.
Robert: Okay. But where does it say the tribulation begins when the beast turns on the harlot?
Cameron: Well, Jesus said that the disgusting thing will stand in a holy place.
Robert: And you are saying that the harlot is the holy place? And that Jerusalem represents Babylon the great?
Cameron: Yes, because Jehovah’s temple was unholy.
Robert: But why did Jesus cleanse the temple when he threw out the money changers? And why did the apostles regularly preach in the temple even long after Christ foretold it would be thrown down? Did you know that many years into the Christian era the apostles ordered Paul to go to the temple and offer up sacrifice in order to quell the rumor among the Jews that Paul was fomenting an apostasy? If the apostles did not view the temple as unholy why do you?
Cameron: No, honestly, I didn’t realize that. Hmmmm. I guess I will need to do some research on that.
Robert: You brought up the 1,260 days in Revelation. I’d like to point something out to you that you may not have considered. In the 11th chapter of Revelation the 1,260 days are expressed as 42 months. Are you familiar with that?
Cameron: Yeah, sure. That is where it speaks about the two witnesses.
Robert: That’s right. Let’s turn our Bibles there, as there is a very important detail revealed that has a direct bearing upon the appointed times of the nations to trample the holy place. Would you like to read verses 1 through 3 for us?
Cameron: Okay. It says: “And a reed like a rod was given to me as he said: ‘Get up and measure the temple sanctuary of God and the altar and those worshipping in it. But as for the courtyard that is outside the temple sanctuary, leave it out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city underfoot for 42 months. I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days dressed in sackcloth.”
Robert: Cam, did you notice that the passage you just read uses all the same terms that Jesus spoke about in the 21st chapter of Luke?
Cameron: Hmmm, I’m not following you. I…hmmm.
Robert: Okay, let’s break it down. John wrote about the courtyard and the temple sanctuary. You recall, the Jewish temple had a great outer courtyard. Right? But keep in mind that Revelation was written more than 20 years after the temple had been destroyed.
Cameron: Yes. That’s true. Revelation is speaking about God’s spiritual temple.
Robert: Right. But notice next that John used the exact same phraseology as did Jesus. He spoke of the nations trampling the holy city for an appointed time. In this instance the appointed time is revealed to be 42 months. Do you think it is coincidental or unconnected to what Jesus foretold as regards Jerusalem being trampled upon by the nations for an appointed time? By the way, Jesus himself referred to Jerusalem as the holy city.
Cameron: According to the Watchtower the holy city symbolizes Jehovah’s visible organization. And back during WWI Jehovah’s people came under attack. The work was nearly brought to a standstill. Brother Rutherford was sent to prison along with seven or eight leading brothers. They were the two witnesses that were killed. But they came back to life and renewed the preaching work, big time! Back in 1919, after J.F. Rutherford got out of jail, he reorganized the preaching work. They had a big convention in Cedar Point, Ohio. In fact, they had several big conventions in Cedar Point. God’s spirit was poured out like on the day of Pentecost.
Robert: Yes. I know. By the way, there’s a big amusement park in Cedar Point now. It’s called the roller coaster capital of the world. Did you know that?
Cameron: Huh? What on earth are you talking about?
Robert: Cedar Point. But never mind. Let’s back up. You said that the holy city symbolizes Jehovah’s earthly organization. But didn’t you also say that the holy place and the ancient city of Jerusalem also represent Christendom?
Cameron: Yeah. So?
Robert: But is the Bible really so disjointed? How could “Jerusalem” represent Christendom in Jesus’ prophecy, and a few verses on the “Jerusalem” that is trampled on by the nations supposedly represents God’s kingdom? And still, the holy city and temple that is trampled on by the nations in Revelation stands for Jehovah’s earthly organization, or Christ’s congregation on earth, however you want to express it.
Cameron: I am not following you?
Robert: Cameron, I’m sorry brother, but it gets worse. You said the appointed times ended in 1914. And from then on the nations could not trample on “Jerusalem.” But you also cited the Watchtower that claims that the “holy city” and the spiritual temple mentioned in Revelation were trampled on by the nations during World War One. But if the appointed times ended in 1914, how is it that the nations are allowed to trample a place holy to God after those appointed times ended?
Cameron: Ahhh, uh, hmmm, well, let’s go back to Nebuchadnezzar. When the tree was cut down he was driven off his throne for seven times. But the tree really symbolizes Jerusalem. And Jerusalem symbolizes the kingdom, because Jerusalem was the capitol of God’s earthly kingdom. If we take a day for a year, after first multiplying the 1,260 days by two, we get 2,520 years. Jerusalem was trampled on in 607. So counting from there, and you have to be careful not to count the year zero, because there is no zero year in the Gregorian calendar, then you arrive at 1914. That was when the bands were removed from the tree that was cut down. So, we know the kingdom began …
Robert: Cameron, I’m sorry to cut you off. But you just aren’t making any sense. I believe the Bible is harmonious, throughout. Don’t you believe that too?
Cameron: Yes. Of course. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible is God’s word. And God cannot lie. We know Jesus foretold that there would be wars and pestilence and earthquakes…and looking back all that began back in 1914. That’s how we know that….
Robert: Yes, yes. Sorry to cut you off again, Cameron. But let’s get back to the point. The point I’m trying to make is, if we believe the Bible is harmonious and like Peter stated, no prophecy springs from any private interpretation, shouldn’t we expect it all to harmonize, like a beautiful symphony? What I mean is, when Jesus spoke about Jerusalem and a holy place being trampled upon by the nations for an appointed time, or times, as the case may be, and we read in Revelation about the temple and holy city being trampled upon by the nations for an appointed time of 42 months, shouldn’t we allow God’s prophetic word to interpret itself and accept that the “appointed times” Jesus spoke about in Luke is equal to the 42 months?
Cameron: Well, you got me there. I’ll have to research that.
Robert: It is interesting that Jesus referred to our researching the prophecy of Daniel in connection with the appointed times.
Cameron: He did? Really?
Robert: Yep. He did. In the 24th chapter of Matthew Jesus is quoted as saying: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken about by Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place (let the reader use discernment), then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”
If we are to follow the Lord’s advice and use our discernment, where would we look in Daniel to get insight into the desolation of the holy place?
Cameron: Well, I have researched this a little bit. I was a conductor in the old book study arrangement. We used to meet in my house by the way. But anyway, when we studied the Pay Attention book on Daniel’s prophecy I remember the 12th chapter of Daniel refers to the disgusting thing being put in place for 1,290 days, or something like that.
Robert: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And do you think that may be one place in Daniel that Jesus had in mind when he advised us to read the prophecy with an eye to discernment?
Cameron: Well, yes, I suppose so.
Robert: And as you know, the Pay Attention book applies that to the time when the Watchtower was under pressure during World War One. But if the “Jerusalem” Jesus was referring to represents Christendom, why does the Watchtower apply the “disgusting thing” that removes the constant feature of the temple in Daniel’s prophecy to what befell the organization in 1918?
Cameron: Gee whizz. Man, that does sound confusing. But I would really have to do some more research on that.
Robert: You are going to be doing a lot of research, it sounds like. (Laughing) But let me save you the trouble, Cameron. There is nothing in the Watchtower literature that you can research that will allow you to appreciate the internal harmony of the prophecies on this matter. But I think you are starting to see some rather obvious contradictions in the Watchtower’s explanation.
Cameron: Well, maybe so. But we believe that Jesus appointed a faithful and discreet slave. And so we accept what the slave teaches.
Robert: I appreciate that. I do not dispute that the Watchtower is Christ’s instrumentality for teaching people the basic truth. The Society has accomplished a great work, as Jesus foretold. You can even say the Watchtower is God’s messenger. Would you agree with that?
Cameron: Absolutely! Agreed.
Robert: Okay. So, let me present you with another question…
Cameron: Uh oh. Here comes another trick question. I am beginning to think you are an apostate. (Laughing)
Robert: Very funny. Actually, Cam, this is not a question I have made up. This question is posed by Jehovah himself and is part of prophecy, where Jehovah projects his voice to the future. It’s a rhetorical question, really, but God poses it to his people for them to provide an answer at some point in the future. You want to give it a crack?
Cameron: Wow, that sounds awesome. Okay, so what’s the question?
Robert: Open your Bible to the book of Isaiah – chapter 42. And to refresh your memory, in the 43rd chapter that is where Jehovah says “you are my witnesses.”
Cameron: Right. That is where we get our name – the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Robert: Yes. And it’s all part of the same conversation that God is having with his witnesses, those whom he calls “my servants.” So, here’s the question: Reading from Isaiah 42:19 Jehovah asks: “Who is blind except my servant, so deaf as the messenger I send? Who is so blind as the one rewarded, so blind as the servant of Jehovah?”
In consideration of all that we have considered, as an honest, integrity-keeping Christian, as I know you strive to be, if you were standing before Jehovah right now how would you answer that series of questions?
Cameron: Wow, man! You are absolutely blowing my mind with this stuff! I’d have to say, and I can barely say it….in fact, I feel a bit sick to my stomach… my legs are feeling wobbly and my hands are shaking; but, I’d have to say, in the sight of God, that no one is as blind as Jehovah’s Witnesses. We study this stuff like no one else and yet in spite of all our research we just can’t seem to see what is right in front of us. Amazing!
Robert: Good answer.
Cameron: So, let me make sure I understand you. You are saying that the Kingdom did not begin ruling in 1914, but that Jehovah’s Witnesses are still God’s messengers and servants; however, we are blind and deaf to God’s judgments? And there is going to be a future day of reckoning?
Cameron: So, what about the sign of Christ’s presence and all that?
Robert: Why don’t you do your research and we’ll get back together in a week or so? I don’t want to lay too much on you all at once. We don’t want your head to explode. That could be messy. (Laughing)
Cameron: (Chuckling) Yeah, you have given me a ton to think about. But I will look into this and get back with you.
Robert: Okay, brother. I’ll look forward to it.