On the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial he forewarned his apostles that they, one and all, would be stumbled in fulfillment of prophecy. When Peter protested and vowed that even if all the others should fall he would never do so, Jesus issued his own prophecy, of sorts, foretelling that Peter would deny him three times before a cock crowed to herald the dawn. And of course, both prophecies came true. All the apostles scattered in fear and Peter three times vehemently denied he even knew Jesus.
Jesus also foretold that during the conclusion “many will be stumbled.” What did Jesus mean? Was he referring to true Christians?
The Watchtower Society teaches that the worldwide preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses is fulfilling the aspect of that very same prophecy in which Jesus also foretold that the good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, and then the end will come.
In Peter-like cocksureness, though, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that those many who will stumble could not possibly be from among the number who are engaged in preaching the good news of the kingdom. Their reasoning behind drawing that conclusion is that no mass stumbling of Christians took place in the 1st century prior to the desolation of Jerusalem. But is that reasoning sound?
Thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses do well to consider the fact that there are many aspects of the sign Jesus gave that did not have any fulfillment in the 1st century. For example, Jesus said that men will become faint with fear in contemplating the dreadful things coming upon the entire inhabited earth. Also, Jesus said that the very powers of the heaven would be shaken. Obviously, those aspects of the sign were not in evidence in the days of the apostles. The reasoning of the Watchtower and her appointed spokesmen is not scripturally sound.
Now consider the text in question in its context.
“For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. Then, also, many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly have been objects of hatred by peoples of all the nations, being reviled as unpatriotic traitors, home wreckers, child killers, dangerous cultists and seditionists. Still, excepting the Nazi and Soviet persecutions, and the wave of persecution in Malawi in the 1970’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not been put to death in large numbers.
Be that as it may, the more relevant question is now reiterated: Are those who are destined to stumble and betray one another and hate one another the same Christians who had formerly preached the good news? In other words, are Jehovah’s Witnesses going to fulfill the words of Jesus by a mass stumbling?
Consider another accounting of Jesus’ words in the 13th chapter of Mark, where the Lord foretold: “But when they are leading you along to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what to speak; but whatever is given you in that hour, speak this, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit is. Furthermore, brother will deliver brother over to death, and a father a child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death; and you will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”
In the passage above Jesus is forewarning his followers who would be alive during the conclusion that they will be hauled before authorities, and handed over to death by brothers and family members; but the one enduring to the end is the one who will be saved.
To date Jehovah’s Witnesses have not experienced any of what Jesus foretold, except in isolated instances. True, a relative few witnesses have been arrested for preaching and other activities deemed illegal by the state, but on those occasions have Jehovah’s Witnesses foregone legal counsel and solely relied upon the holy spirit for their defense? I have never heard of such an instance.
Furthermore, we have not seen brothers betraying one another in matters of life and death. The circumstances simply have not developed that would foster that sort of animalistic behavior. But, the point is, given the overlap between the two Gospel accounts, it ought to be clear that the many who will be stumbled and betray and hate one another are brothers and family members of the persecuted. If that were not the case, then why would it be necessary for the faithful to endure to the end? What will they have to endure if not the misleading influence of false prophets and the mass falling away and betrayal of their former brothers, family and friends?
But what could possibly cause great numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses to stumble, leading them to hate, betray and deliver to death those whom they presently regard as their beloved brothers?
Go back to the night of Jesus’ arrest. What was the contributing factor that caused the apostles to stumble and which impelled Peter to deny that he even knew Jesus? Fear of man, certainly. But that alone cannot explain it, since as you recall, Peter initially drew his sword and was ready to fight for Jesus.
On a deeper level it was their unfounded expectations regarding Jesus’ mission itself. All during his ministry, the apostles and all of his disciples were laboring under the false notion that Jesus was going to restore the earthly kingdom of Israel right then. As silly as it may sound, initially they had no idea that the kingdom of the heavens they were sent out to preach was actually a heavenly kingdom. That is why Peter went so far as to try and dissuade Jesus from his self-sacrificial course.
Even after his resurrection, even after some of their number had been rebuked as ‘senseless ones and slow in heart to believe the prophets,’ even moments before his ascension back to heaven, the disciples asked Jesus: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
Even though prior to his death Jesus tried to explain things to them, the Scriptures say they were not permitted to see through it. (Luke 9:43-45) In other words, it was Jehovah’s will that they not comprehend the reality of Jesus’ death until after his resurrection. The reason being, Satan had demanded to have the prospective immortal kings of the kingdom to sift them as wheat, and as with Christ Jesus himself, Jehovah accommodated the Devil by allowing the apostles to have their faith tested by subjecting them to confusion and persecution.
In view of the foregoing, renewing the question previously posed: What could possibly cause great numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses to stumble, leading them to hate, betray and deliver to death those whom they presently regard as their beloved brothers?
The answer is: The unfounded expectations fostered by the Watchtower Society itself. To the point, the Watchtower’s 1914 invisible parousia doctrine is a massive stumbling block, destined to upend many.
A few days ago I had a conversation with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses that approached me on the street. Straightaway I told him I was disfellowshipped because of having doctrinal issues with the Watchtower regarding 1914 (among other things). I went on to relate that the world now stands on the brink of world war, global financial collapse, food shortages, earthquakes and pestilences, on a scale that would make the events associated with 1914 seem insignificant by comparison. He thought for a moment and then responded: ‘Let’s suppose what you are saying is true, don’t you think the faithful and discreet slave will make an adjustment and publish new light?’ The conversation pretty much ended at that point.
But let us consider the question he posed. Supposing what e-watchman is saying is true, and let’s suppose also the faithful and discreet slave makes an adjustment and announces that Christ’s parousia has commenced at some point in the near future, how might that be received by Jehovah’s Witnesses? For a certainty, it would not be well received at all. What credibility could Bethel possibly retain? They would be asking Jehovah’s Witnesses to disregard the volumes and volumes of material published by them over the past century – touted as the most nutritious spiritual food available from the all wise and knowing slave of God. Again, what credibility would the Governing Body have at that point?
Dating back to Russell and Rutherford and up to the present, the leadership of the Watchtower is responsible for stumbling untold numbers of Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses by their numerous gaffs and goofs – like the 1975 fiasco, and more recent flips and flops related to “this generation” and other trivia, not to mention the more serious sins regarding their secret partnership with the United Nations and atrocious way in which allegations of child sexual abuse have been mishandled – including secret million-dollar payouts and silencing victims with legal gag orders. Doubtless, it would be absolutely devastating to the faith of many of Jehovah’s Witnesses if the Watchtower were to suddenly jettison the 1914, invisible presence doctrine. And yet, the future arrival of Christ will force them to do that very thing.
It is not the intent of this article to consider the falsity of the 1914 doctrine. Virtually every aspect of the Watchtower’s invisible parousia doctrine has been held up to scrutiny in various articles on this site. But just consider one facet.
WHO REALLY IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?
As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses know, the Watchtower Society teaches that besides having been made king in 1914, in 1918 Jesus is believed to have inspected the spiritual house of God and at that time appointed a faithful slave over all of his earthly belongings. But in the nearly 100 years since then the Watchtower Society has continued to exhort all of Jehovah’s Witnesses to stay on the watch. Stay on the watch for what? Presumably, for the coming of Christ, again. But if Christ came in 1918 to judge his household of servants, why must Christians stay awake and on the watch for his coming yet again? An examination of the 12th chapter of Luke reveals that the Watchtower’s teaching regarding the master appointing his faithful slave in 1918 is a fraud.
As a prelude to a detailed discussion of the faithful and unfaithful slaves, Jesus said the following: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them thus, happy are they! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have kept watching and not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”
Peter than asked Jesus whom he was speaking to, saying: “‘Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?’ And the Lord said: ‘Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
An astute reader will notice that there are two appointments of the slaves. The first appointment the master appoints his slaves over his body of attendants, to give them their measure of food at the proper time. The second appointment is contingent upon the slaves’ faithfulness in his first assignment. And, as Jesus indicated, the second appointment would take place when the Son of man arrives unexpectedly, at an hour the slaves do not expect.
Here is the dilemma for Jehovah’s Witnesses. If the Son of man arrived in 1914 and appointed the faithful slave over everything, why is it necessary to stay in expectation of the coming of the Son of man decades after he supposedly came? None of Jehovah’s Witnesses can provide a sensible answer.
And another thing to ponder, the Watchtower claims that it is providing spiritual food at the proper time, a claim which is not being brought into dispute here, but if that is the case, why is there no distinction between the two appointments? Worded differently, the master’s appointment of the faithful slave over all of his belongings ought to be a promotion, should it not? So, if the Watchtower Society was long ago given that second appointment and rewarded with greater responsibilities, why is it that the organizational slave is still doing the work of dispensing food at the proper time? In reality, the second appointment that places the faithful slave over all the master’s belongings symbolizes their being received into the kingdom of heaven and ruling with Christ. Obviously, that has not taken place, otherwise the feeding program would have come to a conclusion.
This is why Jesus told his disciples that he was coming at an hour they do not think likely, the reason being, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been deluded into imagining the Son of man has already come to judge his slaves. To be sure, the very judgment will involve jettisoning the Watchtower’s entire prophetic exegesis and accepting the authentic arrival of the Son of man. Many will be unwilling to do so – hence, “many will be stumbled.”
THROUGH THE FIRE!
Going back to his last night with his disciples, Jesus told them that the shepherd would be struck and the sheep scattered in fulfillment of prophecy. What prophecy was Jesus referring to? Zechariah 13:7, which, in context states: “‘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.’”
That aspect of prophecy was fulfilled that very night when Jesus was struck. However, Zechariah 13:8-9 was not. It reads: “‘And it must occur in all the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that two parts in it are what will be cut off and expire; and as for the third part, it will be left remaining in it. And I shall certainly bring the third part through the fire; and I shall actually refine them as in the refining of silver, and examine them as in the examining of gold. It, for its part, will call upon my name, and I, for my part, will answer it. I will say, ‘It is my people,’ and it, in its turn, will say, ‘Jehovah is my God.’”
As is evident by the vision of the remaining 14th chapter, the prophecy is intended to have a second, grander fulfillment when Christ comes as the Refiner. The Watchtower Society well knows that Christ’s shepherding is accomplished through the office of men who serve as Christian under-shepherds. Since it is impossible for the Great Shepherd in heaven to be struck again, it is his earthly shepherds, the faithful slave, which is due to be struck and a majority – “two parts” – of the sheep, are due to be cut off – stumbled – as Christ foretold. Going back to the 12 chapter of Luke, did not Jesus say that even the faithful slave who acted unfaithfully due to ignorance will be flogged with a few strokes?
Returning to the conversation I had with the minister on the street and his question regarding the faithful slave publishing new light regarding the falsity of 1914; bluntly, that is not going to happen. Read the 29th chapter of Isaiah, there God’s earthly spokesman is laid low and silenced, as if his voice rises up from the earth in a mere whisper – like a ghostly spirit medium. The context goes on to reveal that God’s holy place will be surrounded by enemies with pointed stakes. That, of course, is exactly what Jesus said would happen to the holy place when it is desolated by a disgusting thing during the tribulation. That means that the faithful slave will be silenced at a critical moment when the sheep look to him for guidance.
So, that will be the great test – as if through fire? Up to this point Jehovah’s Witnesses are said to be in the truth, which basically involves following a formulaic religious discipline laid out by the Watchtower. It centers around going to tightly scripted meetings, going out in service and offering Watchtower literature in well-rehearsed presentations, and so forth. But the time has approached for the last phase of God’s purpose to be accomplished. It is Jehovah’s will that those who call upon his name be subjected to the Refiner’s fire, in order to mold them into a people who are more devoted to him and Christ and no longer mere followers of the earthly organization.
The Refiner’s fire will be manifest in the tyrannical government imposed upon the world then. Already, at this late hour, the world stands poised to plunge into chaos and despotism at the outbreak of world war, global financial collapse and anarchy.
In the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested he said that it was the hour of the authority of darkness. Jehovah’s Witnesses must likewise also be subjected to the hour of the authority of darkness. The hour of darkness will coincide with the symbolic one hour (in reality the one hour is three and a half years), when the world will be subjected to the tyranny of the last king.
Keep in mind that leading up to the hour of the authority of darkness Satan entered into Judas and moved him to betray Jesus. Those who belong to Christ will fare no better. During the concluding hour of this world all of the chosen ones will be killed, likely betrayed by their former brothers and family members. No doubt the Devil will move the many disaffected and stumbled former Watchtower devotees to betray their former brothers to the authorities.
It is my hope that having this foreknowledge will prepare a few for the stumbling that is soon to occur.