ANSWER: First, the Watchtower does not teach that the fall of Babylon the Great is a future event. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been led to believe that Babylon fell back in 1918. It is part of the elaborate 1914 hoax the Watchtower Society has perpetrated upon Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here is a rather lengthy excerpt from the May 1st, 1989 Watchtower Magazine that is the basis for the Babylon-has-fallen myth:
In the early part of our 20th century prior to 1919, the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, had to be released from a form of spiritual captivity to the ideas and practices of false religion. Although having rejected such false teachings as the Trinity and the immortal soul, they were still tainted by Babylonish practices. Many had developed a self-righteous attitude in character development. Some were exalting creatures, indulging in a personality cult that focused on Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Without any Biblical basis, they were observing birthdays and Christmas. The cross was still prominent in their thinking. Some even wore a cross-and-crown lapel emblem, while others sought the respectability accorded Christendom. Then, in 1917, shortly after the death of Russell, a significant change began to take place.
In that year the Watch Tower Society published a commentary on Revelation under the title The Finished Mystery. This book exposed the clergy of Christendom, including their involvement in the Great War that was then raging in Europe. Some of the Protestant clergy, a faction of Babylon the Great’s representatives in Canada, took these quotes to their political cronies in the Canadian government and denounced the Bible Students as seditious. On February 12, 1918, the Watch Tower Society was banned in Canada.
The clergy in the United States were not slow to follow the example of their Canadian brethren. Within days, Watch Tower Bible publications were confiscated in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. Then, in May 1918, warrants were issued for the arrest of J. F. Rutherford, the new president of the Watch Tower Society, and seven other Watch Tower associates. In June, with surprising swiftness, these Christian men were haled before a court and condemned. Seven were sentenced to 20 years in a penitentiary, and one to 10 years. What was the clergy’s reaction? Martin Marty states in his book Modern American Religion: The Irony of It All: “The clergy turned against the Russellites (later known as Jehovah’s Witnesses) and cheered to hear that twenty-year sentences were to be imposed upon convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders.” The representatives of Babylon the Great were laughing. They overlooked that he who laughs last laughs best.
Thus, in 1918, symbolic captivity to Babylon also became a literal imprisonment for some of Jehovah’s people. A wave of persecution of the Bible Students swept across the United States, Canada, and other countries. Nationalistic clergy organized mobs to chase them out of towns. Bible Students were tarred and feathered and beaten with clubs. A shameful record of injustice was established against this tiny minority of sincere Christians.
Then, in 1919, an unexpected reversal of events occurred. The Great War had ended in November 1918. The sentences against the officials of the Watch Tower Society were appealed as being a miscarriage of justice. To the chagrin of their religious enemies, Rutherford and his companions were released from prison. As Marty states: “There were no cheers by the orthodox church members.” Eventually, all the accused were totally exonerated. The biased Catholic judge, Martin T. Manton, who was later made a “knight of the order of St. Gregory the Great” by Pope Pius XI, had refused the eight Witnesses bail and thus caused their unjust imprisonment for nine months. His true colors were shown later, in 1939, when he was sent to prison for soliciting bribes!
On their release from prison in 1919, Rutherford and his associates returned to the Brooklyn headquarters of the Watch Tower Society. They then set about reorganizing for the biggest Kingdom-preaching campaign the world has ever known. The Bible Students had broken the shackles of the fear of man and now saw clearly where they stood in relation to all false religion. Babylon the Great was their relentless enemy and would have to be exposed as fallen. True worship would have to be restored among the nations.
Those intrepid Christians intensified their house-to-house ministry. They also paraded publicly, exposing false religion with placards that stated: “Religion Is a Snare and a Racket” and, “Serve God and Christ the King.” False religion still continued to flourish and function, as it had done in ancient Babylon, but in relation to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Babylon the Great had fallen in 1919. They were free from Babylonish restraint!
Now, 70 years later, we can see that in many parts of the earth, the influence of Babylon the Great has waned. True, religion still seems to prosper in the United States, where a more emotional sector of the populace is exploited by TV evangelists and religious psychologists. Yet, even some of these materialistic charlatans have recently been unmasked and disgraced. Religion appears to flourish in the Republic of Korea, where Christendom’s churches have become deeply involved in politics. Evidently, Babylon the Great, although “fallen,” is still functioning.
In the wake of the world wars, however, orthodox religion has lost its mass following in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Britain. Even Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, and France have noted a falling away from the traditional Catholic practices of confession and attendance at Mass. The numbers of those studying for the priesthood have plummeted. And the very fact that the present pope feels the need to travel the world more than any other pope in history is a symptom of a church in crisis.
Furthermore, since 1917 most socialistic countries have relegated religion to a minor role and cut off its former political influence. On a world scale, traditional religion is still the cause of so much hatred and bloodshed that many thinking people have turned away from all religion, whether Western or Oriental. Yes, the symbolic waters on which Babylon the Great sits, the peoples under her control, are drying up. Babylon the Great is being judged, and her execution is near.
According to the Watchtower Babylon the Great is the world empire of false religion. That means all religions, not just the sects and denominations of Christendom. Yet, in their explanation above the Society only considers the claimed, waning influence of Christendom, ignoring the fact that Islam is rapidly gaining converts and influence. True, the article was written several decades ago, but ought not the Society address the rise of Islam, since it is part of the “world empire of false religion”?
According to the Watchtower, supposedly false religion can no longer restrain God’s people from their preaching. But is that really true? Consider, for example, the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church has used its political influence to have Jehovah’s Witnesses banned in Moscow. (Orthodox Relics Block Jehovah’s Witnesses Meeting) How is that possible if Babylon has fallen and no longer has any power to restrain God’s people? Also, what about the many Islamic nations that have successfully banned the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Besides that, even though Babylon the Great supposedly “fell” in 1918 the Watchtower still pleads with churchgoers to “get out of her” by having their names withdrawn from church registries and becoming baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. But as the questioner noted, the command to “get out of her” is directed to “my people”—God’s people. And certainly when literal Babylon fell to Cyrus God’s people got out as a group—in-mass, not a trickle of individuals over decades of time.
And not only that, how is it that the common churchgoer is considered by God to be one of his people? And if they are already recognized by God as his people while in captivity why would they need to get baptized and publicly declare their new association with the Watchtower Society in order to heed the command to “get out of her”? Obviously, the Watchtower’s tale cannot hold up to serious scrutiny.
Another aspect of prophecy that the Watchtower has mutilated into meaninglessness has to do with the beast ascending from the abyss. The beast from the abyss is an integral part of the prophecy regarding Babylon the Great. In fact, the revelatory angel focused more upon the beast than the harlot riding the beast. That is significant. To illustrate the point here is an excerpt from the 17th chapter of Revelation: “Well, on catching sight of her I wondered with great wonderment. And so the angel said to me: ‘Why is it you wondered? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the wild beast that is carrying her and that has the seven heads and the ten horns: The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction. And when they see how the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present, those who dwell on the earth will wonder admiringly, but their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world. Here is where the intelligence that has wisdom comes in: The seven heads mean seven mountains, where the woman sits on top. And there are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived, but when he does arrive he must remain a short while. And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth king, but springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.”’
Please take note of the fact that the ascension of the beast out of the abyss initiates the judgment of the world. Those who “wonder admiringly” do not have their names written down in the scroll of life. In other words, they receive the mark of the beast in forfeiture of their lives – receiving the sentence of the second death. The 13th chapter of Revelation similarly depicts a seven-headed beast recovering from a mortal blow to one of its heads only to recover, afterwards, the world follows the beast “admiringly.” So, the death blow is what sends the beast into the abyss.
The Watchtower claims that there are two separate beasts that go into an abyss. It makes the preposterous claim that the Anglo-American head of the beast suffered a mortal wound during the First World War; this in spite of the fact that the Allies resoundingly won the war! The Society also teaches that the impotent League of Nations was the 8th king and that it went into the abyss during WWII and ascended as the United Nations. Incredibly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been duped into believing that people of the world began receiving the 666, mark of the beast in 1922! Of course, the Watchtower can never be made to answer by any mere mortal for the nonsense it dishes out as God’s holy truth.
To underscore the absolute indefensibility of the Watchtower’s 1914 teaching and related matters in 2011 I wrote an article entitled 30 Questions for the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since then, not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses has offered to answer even one question. To be sure, if any baptized Witness were to even bring up such matters to anyone in the congregation and seriously question the Watchtower’s teaching they would find themselves in serious trouble with the elders. The elders are essentially the enforcers of the Watchtower’s hoax and are not capable of actually defending the Society’s teachings using reasoning.
At any rate, much of the material on this website is intended to overturn the Watchtower’s error with a view to pointing to the future judgment of God. The coming collapse of the present system will set the stage for the beast to emerge from the abyss. Under those circumstances, Jehovah’s Witnesses will find themselves in uncharted territory and the command of God to “get out of her my people” will finally be understood.