ANSWER: Although 1st century Christians were called out of worldly darkness into the wonderful light of truth there were many things, particularly matters related to prophecy and the second coming of Christ, that they did not understand. In fact, their unenlightened condition was the reason Paul and the others wrote them letters of counsel, which letters now comprise what we call the Greek Scriptures.
But even at that, in his letter to the Corinthians Paul said that until the coming of Christ we can only see in a “hazy outline,” as if peering at a metal mirror. So, being called into God’s wonderful light should not be thought of in terms of a singular event, but rather a process and a promise of an eventuality. (Not to be confused with the Watchtower’s ‘the light keeps getting brighter’ axiom.)
Also, on the matter of prophecy, take for instance the book of Daniel, which the angel explained to the prophet was to be sealed up until the time of the end. And although the other prophecies do not explicitly say they are sealed up until a certain time, it is certainly implied to be the case.
And during that time – the time of the end – when Jehovah’s judgments are revealed, then that is when the righteous will shine as brightly as the sun in God’s kingdom. What does that indicate if not a sudden change of condition from relative darkness into the wonderful light of the one who now dwells in the unapproachable divine light? So, the prophecies allow for a comparatively unenlightened condition up until the day of Christ.
The prophecy of Isaiah has as an underlying theme the blindness and deafness of God’s people – a blindness and deafness that will only be remedied by the illuminating presence of Christ. For example, the 32nd chapter of Isaiah refers to the king reigning for righteousness and his princes – the princes are the sons of the kingdom (not Christian elders as the WT teaches) at the time they are said to shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Isaiah goes on to say: “And the eyes of those seeing will not be pasted together, and the very ears of those hearing will pay attention. And the heart itself of those who are overhasty will consider knowledge, and even the tongue of the stammerers will be quick in speaking clear things. The senseless one will no longer be called generous; and as for the unprincipled man, he will not be said to be noble; because the senseless one himself will speak mere senselessness, and his very heart will work at what is hurtful, to work at apostasy and to speak against Jehovah what is wayward, to cause the soul of the hungry one to go empty, and he causes even the thirsty one to go without drink itself.”
Presently the “senseless ones” are the leading men of the Watchtower Society.
Assuming that there are some who are not bent on outright deception, they just can’t seem to figure out that the reason they have to periodically adjust and re-adjust their interpretations of prophecy is because Christ did not begin ruling in 1914. Despite the fact that they have now disavowed much of what was once thought to have been fulfilled (such as the beginning of the tribulation in 1914, men becoming faint with fear, the separating of the sheep and goats, the appointment of the faithful slave over all the master’s belongings, etc.) it is still unimaginable for them that there could be another world war, global pandemics, etc., and that the sign of Christ could more authentically display itself in the future. In that respect they are truly senseless.
Surely that will offend and likely shock the sensibilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it is not my opinion. It is God’s exalted point of view. To put things in perspective keep in mind that after Jesus was resurrected he appeared to a few of his disciples on one occasion and rebuked them for being senseless and slow in heart to believe the prophets. So, the senselessness of the Governing Body on the matter of prophecy does not necessarily disqualify them as individuals from being Christ’s faithful slave. (See article: Who Is Blind?)
But for that matter, the rank and file of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been “overhasty” in concluding that Christ has already arrived and set matters straight. So, Jehovah’s Witnesses are inline for rebuke as well, just not to the same degree as those in charge. (See Luke 12:48)
To be sure, the time of the end has not begun yet. That is why, for example, the Watchtower has no clue who the king of the north is now after more than 20 years have lapsed since the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was disbanded, although we are supposedly “deep into the time of the end.” Nonetheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses continually praise “the slave” for generously providing them with nothing but the most wholesome and up-to-date knowledge. (Although Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the time of the end began in 1914 the facts prove otherwise. See article: The Time of the End)
But there is another factor involved too. God allows Satan to put in place an operation of error. And as I have written about fairly extensively, the operation of error that emanates from a man of lawlessness has to do with deceiving God’s people into accepting a fake parousia, which, of course, is exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses have done. In that respect Isaiah identifies the senseless one as working at apostasy, which is what the man of lawlessness promotes as well. So, there is considerable overlap of the prophecies.
The coming of Christ will bring about a division – a separation, which Jesus described as a harvest. Some will accept the genuine parousia, in which case their eyes will be opened and their ears unstopped. The wicked and faithless at heart will refuse, or perhaps better said: They will be disallowed from “seeing” the reality of Jesus’ glorious manifestation and will be assigned to the outer darkness along with the hypocrites. All of this will occur during the now-imminent crash of the system.
As regards the 14th chapter of Zechariah, to really understand the prophecy it is necessary to consider the 13th chapter first. In the 13th chapter God decrees death for those who have prophesied falsely in the name of Jehovah. Or to be more correct, God will put to death those who persist in promoting the lie after Christ arrives. (For a more in-depth consideration of the prophecy of Zechariah see the article: The Coming Fall of the House of God)
Take note of the fact that the most prominent feature of the sign of Christ’s presence is that Jesus emphasized that there will be many deceivers and those saying the Christ is here or the Christ is there; so that Jesus said if it were possible even the chosen ones would be deceived. Obviously, that means the deception has to come from a trusted source. Realistically, the only agency that could possibly influence and deceive Jehovah’s Witnesses on the matter of Christ’s return is the Watchtower itself.
This is, in fact, exactly what is going to occur. While the Society’s 1914 error may seem benign and innocuous now, like an innocent mistake, and some within the organization’s hierarchy may be trying to subtly shelf the whole thing, at the point when Christ returns the core faction of the organization is certain to reveal itself to be an enemy of Christ – an antichrist.
But as regards Christ’s true congregation God will drive the prophets out. For example, Zechariah 13:2-3 foretells: “And it must occur in that day,” is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, “that I shall cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they will no more be remembered; and also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness I shall cause to pass out of the land. And it must occur that in case a man should prophesy anymore, his father and his mother, the ones who caused his birth, must also say to him, ‘You will not live, because falsehood is what you have spoken in the name of Jehovah.’ And his father and his mother, the ones who caused his birth, must pierce him through because of his prophesying.”
Needless to say the clergy do not speak in the name of Jehovah. They want nothing to do with the name. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have proudly spoken in the name of Jehovah. And, the leadership has unquestionably taught falsehood in God’s name. And if any persist after the point when Christ arrives, then they will be put to death –evidently, the second death.
Also, take note of the fact that God will “cause to pass out of the land” the false prophets and “spirit of uncleanness.” That is also the way Jesus explained the harvest will work, when the angels will clear out of his kingdom all persons doing lawlessness and all things causing stumbling. Obviously, God is not going to cleanse Christendom and purge the false prophets from it.
That does not bode well for certain men within the hierarchy of the Watchtower Society. Verses 4-6 further relate: “And it must occur in that day that the prophets will become ashamed, each one of his vision when he prophesies; and they will not wear an official garment of hair for the purpose of deceiving. And he will certainly say, ‘I am no prophet. I am a man cultivating the soil, because an earthling man himself acquired me from my youth on.’ And one must say to him, ‘What are these wounds on your person between your hands?’ And he will have to say, ‘Those with which I was struck in the house of my intense lovers.’”
Since its inception the Watchtower Society has claimed to be God’s official mouthpiece on earth – Jehovah’s earthly channel. None of Jehovah’s Witnesses would dispute that. That being the case what can be said of the fact that at Isaiah 43:27 God puts himself on judgment with his organization, saying: “your own spokesmen have transgressed against me.”
Indeed, to bolster its authority as God’s earthly spokesman the Society has created and taken to itself certain high-sounding designations, such as the Jeremiah class, the Ezekiel class, the Micah class and so on. Although not claiming inspiration to prophesy in the same sense as the biblical prophets of old the Society has claimed to itself the sole prerogative of interpreting prophecy for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And anyone within the organization who contradicts or even seriously questions their prophetic pronouncements is cast as an apostate or spiritually weak. But as can be proven, Christ did not begin any sort of invisible presence in 1914. The Watchtower’s entire prophetic teaching is an artfully contrived false story. In that respect the Watchtower has donned “an official garment of hair for the purpose of deceiving.” (Elijah, Elisha and John the baptizer all wore animal skins as clothing, which distinguished them as God’s prophets.)
But with the coming of Christ all that will change. Those who have used their authority to deceive God’s people will be called to account. The wounds inflicted in the “house of my intense lovers” (Bethel) will result in humiliation for those who have until then been praised as generous and noble (faithful and discreet.)
In the 12th chapter of Luke Jesus explained how the slave who disobeyed out of ignorance will be lashed with a few strokes, (resulting in wounds) but the willfully disobedient (apostate) will be lashed with many strokes (death). The end result will be that the leadership of the organization will get out of the prophecy racket altogether. Those who are lashed with a few strokes will be forever humbled and disavow being part of any prophet class. Individuals who used to hold positions high up in the Watchtower will discard the symbolic mantle of the prophet and their privileged office of presiding over the levers of God’s mouthpiece and will assume a more lowly position – as “a man cultivating the soil.” (In that lowly position the sheep and goats will be judged as to their treatment of the chastened brothers of Christ)
Now consider the very next verse in the 13th chapter of Zechariah: “O sword, awake against my shepherd, even against the able-bodied man who is my associate,” is the utterance of Jehovah of armies. “Strike the shepherd, and let those of the flock be scattered; and I shall certainly turn my hand back upon those who are insignificant.”
According to Jesus his arrest and trial and death fulfilled the Scriptures. And for a fact all of his apostles and disciples were temporarily scattered. Yet, a few verses down, which is the beginning of the 14th chapter, indicates that the striking of the shepherd is preliminary to the day belonging to Jehovah. Clearly, the prophecy has a larger fulfillment during the time of the end. Of course, now the shepherd, Christ, cannot be harmed. But those who serve as his ambassadors can be. And that is how it ought to be understood.
A fascinating aspect of the prophecy of Zechariah is that it was written after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians – just as Revelation was written after the rebuilt city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions. And both books of prophecy speak of an attack upon Jerusalem.
As we know Jerusalem has quite a storied past. It was briefly the capitol of the kingdom of Israel before the split and afterwards remained the seat of the throne of David – also called Jehovah’s throne; and of course, it was always the religious center for the Jews. Most importantly, it was the place where Jehovah caused his name to reside and God fought in behalf of Jerusalem, such as when Jehovah’s angel slew the entire Assyrian army that had encamped against the city. And with the coming of Christ Jerusalem became the birthplace of Christianity too. (See Isaiah essay: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jerusalem)
Because of its important role in the outworking of God’s purpose Jerusalem and Zion are used as symbols. Jehovah’s Witnesses are blessed to understand this important truth. However, the Watchtower Society has perverted the actual message of prophecy associated with the symbol of Jerusalem That brings us to the 14th chapter of Zechariah, which will be considered in a subsequent post. A Tale of Two Cities