Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God is directly responsible for gradually enlightening the Watchtower Society over the course of many decades, professedly in fulfillment of numerous prophecies. But is that really the case? This commentary will attempt to shed some light on that question. Typifying the “new light” teaching, the May 15th, 1995, Watchtower carried a two-part study article recounting instances in the history of the Society when light flashed up, so-to-speak. For example, in regards to celebrating Christmas, the Watchtower said:
“Shortly thereafter, a flash of light caused the Bible Students to stop celebrating Christmas. Before that time Christmas had always been celebrated by the Bible Students worldwide, and its celebration at Brooklyn headquarters was a very festive occasion. But then it was discerned that the observance of December 25 was actually pagan and was chosen by apostate Christendom to make it easier to convert pagans.”
“Shortly thereafter” is in reference to the year 1926. But was the enlightenment of the International Bible Students regarding the pagan origins of Christmas really the result of a sudden flash of divine light? Well, considering that Alexander Hislop had published his groundbreaking book, The Two Babylons, approximately 75 years prior to the time the Bible Students suddenly discerned the truth about Christmas, in which Hislop painstakingly revealed the Babylonish character of Christmas, the question is: Why did it take the Bible Students so long to ‘discern’ that the observance of December 25th was actually pagan?’
Furthermore, the reasoning the Watchtower Society uses in discussing the pagan character of the holiday is the exact same reasoning Hislop presented in 1858; yet, the Society claims to have received a great flash of light in the 1920’s. Since the Watchtower’s teaching is virtually identical to that presented in The Two Babylons, does this mean that Hislop had previously been blessed with a flash of divine light too? If not, why not? Surely, if honesty and modesty were to prevail at 25 Columbia Heights, the spokesmen for the Watchtower Society would acknowledge that the “flash of light” they boast of having received was merely a result of their finally accepting the truth Alexander Hislop had long-before published.
The same pattern of dishonesty is evident in other ways. For instance, the same study article says of the cross:
“For many years the Bible Students made the cross prominent as a symbol of Christianity. They even had a “cross-and-crown” pin… For decades this symbol also appeared on the cover of the Watch Tower magazine. The book Riches, published by the Society in 1936, made clear that Jesus Christ was executed, not on a cross, but on an upright pole, or stake.”
In one instance, the Watchtower Society claims to have received new light that had previously gone dim. This is in regards to Bethel’s understanding of Romans 13:1. The May 15th, 1995, Watchtower says:
“A bright flash of light was seen in 1962 in connection with Romans 13:1…The early Bible Students understood that “the higher powers” mentioned there referred to worldly authorities. They took this scripture to mean that if a Christian was drafted in wartime, he would be obligated to put on a uniform, shoulder a gun, and go to the front, to the trenches. It was felt that since a Christian could not kill a fellow human, he would be compelled to fire his gun into the air if worst came to worst. The Watchtower of November 15 and of December 1, 1962, shed clear light on the subject…”
If the early International Bible Students understood who the “higher powers” were, why was it necessary for the Society to “shed clear light on the subject” in 1962? The reason is because J.F. Rutherford overturned the Bible Student’s understanding. Commenting on Romans 13:1 in the July 1st, 1931, Watchtower, Rutherford said:
“Until quite recently God’s people understood…that this scripture has reference to worldly ruling powers. Those who have withdrawn from the Society still hold this wrongful view. Now, however, the faithful remnant clearly see that this scripture has no reference to any part of Satan’s organization but does apply exclusively to God’s arrangement in his organization for his own people. Those who refuse to see this truth and who oppose the statement of The Watch Tower concerning it have seized upon such as an excuse and have dropped out and have gone into the dark.”
Little surprise that the 1995 article did not explain what had happened so as to necessitate a late-coming flash of recycled light in 1962. Although the International Bible Students under Pastor Russell clearly did not understand the principle of relative subjection, at least they properly understood that the higher powers were the secular governments. Incredibly, though, sometime in the late 1920’s, J.F. Rutherford insisted that the higher powers that were placed in their relative positions of authority were actually Jehovah and Jesus. Tragically, evidently the Society’s 2nd president stumbled a significant number of Bible Students by his bizarre reinterpretation of Romans 13:1; and as is so typical of the Watchtower Society to this day, he blamed those who were stumbled for not accepting his nonsensical teaching – characterizing them as going off into the darkness.
Compounding yesteryear’s error, instead of facing up to the unseemliness of Rutherford’s folly, the Watchtower now boasts of having received yet another heavenly flash of light that restored what the Bible Students had originally believed many years ago, before J.F. Rutherford repudiated it. There are numerous other examples the Watchtower gives of their periodic flashes of spiritual light; things such as organizational arrangements, operational refinements and trivial changes in terminology. For example, even though there is no scriptural precedent for it the Society claims that the establishment of a half dozen committees in 1976 was a result of a revelation of divine light.
The Society claims that the ban on tobacco use was a result of a flash of divine light too. Though the Watchtower had always discouraged the use of tobacco as the unclean habit it is and relatively few of Jehovah’s Witnesses smoked, in 1973, the Watchtower instituted a policy under the guise of new light to disfellowship tobacco users from the congregation. In that year it also prohibited anyone from being baptized who smoked.
Essentially, the Watchtower’s new light classed even the casual smoker in the same category as practicing fornicators, greedy persons, idolaters, revilers, drunkards and extortioners, which were the sorts of persons the inspired apostle said, should be removed from the congregation. Paul, however, exhorted Christians practicing uncleanness to cleanse themselves of defilements. Nowhere did the apostles give the command to remove practicers of unclean habits from the congregation. It would appear that the Watchtower’s new light on smoking goes “beyond the things written” in the Holy Scriptures. Worse, though, is Bethel’s double-dealing. As stated, up until 1973 Bethel did not disallow smokers from becoming baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses.
WHAT DO THE PROPHECIES STATE AS REGARDS NEW LIGHT?
“Jehovah is the “Grand Instructor.” He has no equal as a teacher. How, though, can people ‘see’ and “hear” him? Jehovah reveals himself through his prophets, whose words are recorded in the Bible. (Amos 3:6, 7) Today, when faithful worshipers read the Bible, it is as if God’s fatherly voice is telling them the way to go and urging them to readjust their course of conduct so as to walk in it. Each Christian should listen carefully as Jehovah speaks through the pages of the Bible and through Bible-based publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.”
If the Watchtower Society interpretation of the prophecy is true, though, and the voice of our Grand Instructor is presently projected “through the pages of the Bible and through Bible-based publications provided by the faithful and discreet slave,” in what sense then has God hidden himself?
Christians have always had the Bible, yet the prophecy calls for God to hide until such time as he reveals himself during a time of distress and oppression. Otherwise, why does God exhort his people to “keep in expectation” of his mercy and favor? The prophecy goes on to say: “And you people must defile the overlaying of your graven images of silver and the close-fitting covering of your molten statue of gold. You will scatter them. Like a menstruating woman, you will say to it: ‘Mere dirt!’ And he will certainly give the rain for your seed with which you sow the ground, and as the produce of the ground bread, which must become fat and oily. Your livestock will graze in that day in a spacious pasture. And the cattle and the full-grown asses cultivating the ground will eat fodder seasoned with sorrel, which was winnowed with the shovel and with the fork. And upon every high mountain and upon every elevated hill there must come to be streams, water ditches, in the day of the big slaughter when the towers fall. And the light of the full moon must become as the light of the glowing sun; and the very light of the glowing sun will become seven times as much, like the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah binds up the breakdown of his people and heals even the severe wound resulting from the stroke by him.” Commenting on the span of verses above, the Watchtower says:
“What a thrilling climax to this brilliant prophecy! The glory of God will shine forth in all its splendor. The blessings in store for God’s faithful worshipers will exceed vastly—sevenfold—anything that they have experienced before.”
Obviously, Bethel and Jehovah’s Witnesses have no idea what is in store from Jehovah. The prophecy of Isaiah foretells that the sevenfold blessings only come about in the aftermath of the breakdown of God’s people and the severe wounding of them by the stern disciplinary hand of God; as punishment for their ignorance, arrogance and organizational idolatry.