This is part one of a two-part Watchtower Review series.
The September 2021, Watchtower carries an article based on the prophecy of Haggai, which states: “For this is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘Yet once more—in a little while—and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all the nations, and the precious things of all the nations will come in; and I will fill this house with glory,’ says Jehovah of armies. ’”
About a half-century ago the Watchtower published a book examining both Zechariah and Haggai, entitled Paradise Restored by Theocracy; wherein, it was stated that Jehovah has been shaking the nations since 1914.
I have a particular recollection of the book as it was the study material for the first book study I attended back in 1973-4? At the time it seemed plausible, at least to me. It was less than thirty years since WW2 ended with the horrific destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Cuban Missile Crises still lingered in the collective consciousness of society; a crisis that purportedly brought the world to the brink of a nuclear conflagration. And the US was embroiled in the Vietnam war, which was tearing civil society apart in the United States.
So, yes, Bethel’s eccentric genius, Fred Franz, seemed to be an inspired oracle. But that was 50 years ago. Over the course of the last half-century the Cold War unceremoniously ended with the sudden dissolution of the mighty USSR. For centuries Europe—the heart and soul of Christendom—had been wracked with war after war after war. However, since the end of the last world war there has been an extended period of peace and stability, which gives rise to the question: In what way is God shaking the world? Here is what is stated in paragraph 7:
What does Haggai’s prophecy mean for us today? Once again Jehovah is shaking all the nations, and this time we are involved. Consider this fact: In 1914, Jehovah installed Jesus Christ as King of His heavenly Kingdom. (Ps. 2:6) The establishment of that Kingdom was bad news for world leaders. It meant that “the appointed times of the nations” —the period during which there was no ruler directly representing Jehovah— had been fulfilled, or had come to an end. (Luke 21:24) In recognition of that fact, particularly since 1919, Jehovah’s people have been pointing to God’s Kingdom as the only hope for mankind. This preaching of the “good news of the Kingdom” has shaken the whole world.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have not gone unnoticed, that much is true, at least in the lands of Christendom, but has the message sponsored by the Watchtower figuratively shaken the world? Yes, two world wars rocked the nations, to an extent—but the preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses? That seems like a gross exaggeration. Besides, taken in conjunction with other prophecies the source of the shaking is not a simple Bible message delivered by peaceful Christian ministers. The Scriptures indicate that the nations will be shaken by a global catastrophe—not merely the unwanted, annoying presence of Christian ministers.
The problem, as far as discerning the truth, is that there is a strong delusion at work operating through the Watchtower. A delusion may be defined as having “fixed, false beliefs that conflict with reality. Despite contrary evidence, a person in a delusional state can’t let go of these convictions. Delusions are often reinforced by the misinterpretation of events.”
That perfectly describes the Watchtower’s 1914 doctrine. The belief that the world is being shaken by the message of Jehovah’s Witnesses is at odds with reality. The good news isn’t terrifying or earth-shaking.
Originally 1914 was supposed to be the end of the world, but over the decades since then, the Watchtower reworked it to be the beginning of the last days. Yet, paragraph eight states:
How have people reacted to this message? Most have reacted negatively. The nations have become agitated. They refuse to accept Jehovah’s appointed Ruler. They do not view the Kingdom message we preach as “good news.”
How could the rulers of the system have been put on notice or become agitated that Christ had begun ruling in 1914 when back then the Watchtower taught that the Kingdom came to power in 1878? Since the WT did not adjust their Kingdom-came teaching to 1914 until around 1930, how could the rulers of the world possibly be held responsible by God for rejecting a message from a source that was as befuddled as the Watchtower?
But what about the appointed times of the nations?
Although this is a well-worn topic, let’s consider once more some of the assumptions that support the strong delusion that tightly grips the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The foundation of the lie was laid even before 1914—the foundation being the stitched-up chronology that spans more than 25 centuries from the end of the Judean kingdom to 1914, supposedly marking off the appointed times of the nations.
There is only one account in the gospels where Jesus spoke of the appointed times of the nations coming to an end. In context Christ spoke the following: “However, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, let those in the midst of her leave, and let those in the countryside not enter into her, because these are days for meting out justice in order that all the things written may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and those nursing a baby in those days! For there will be great distress on the land and wrath against this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” — Luke 21:20-24
Any unbiased searcher who reads the words above would never jump to the conclusion that Jesus was implying that Jerusalem was being trampled underfoot by the nations and that the trampling had begun centuries earlier when Babylon invaded Judea. Keep in mind the basis for Jesus speaking about the siege of Jerusalem was because a few days earlier he had told his disciples that the temple was going to be thrown down and not a stone would remain standing upon a stone. This shocked the apostles and so when they were again with Jesus on the Mount of Olives they put the question to him, asking: “Teacher, when will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are to occur?”
Only a deluded person would imagine that the sign the disciples requested had already presented itself. If that had been the case, why would they ask “when will these things be?”—implying the things to come. Since the apostles were evidently prompted by the spirit to inquire about the parouisa, something they knew very little about at the time, why wouldn’t the spirit have also moved them to ask the right question, something like—when did the trampling begin?
Of course, they did ask the right question. The seers of Bethel simply refuse to accept reality since the context clearly indicates that the trampling of Jerusalem was a future event, not an ongoing condition. And as reality would have it Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies and the temple was demolished, just as Jesus said it would be. That occurred in 70 C.E. when the Romans besieged Jerusalem and trampled it down.
Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the only ones laboring under a strong delusion. Preterists are deluded into imagining that Jesus’ prophecy was entirely fulfilled in the first century and has no second, larger fulfillment; except, of course, it does. Jesus spoke of the trampling of Jerusalem occurring during a great tribulation that is to come upon the entire world, a tribulation so severe that the human race would become extinct if God did not intervene. Certainly, no such global extinction event confronted the world when the Romans sacked tiny little Jerusalem.
What does Jerusalem symbolize? The Governing Body claims that it represents Christendom and all of Babylon the Great. That is why they continually claim that Babylon the Great will be destroyed when the great tribulation begins. But that is not reasonable or sensible. Nor does it harmonize with what is presented in Daniel, a prophecy Jesus specifically referenced in connection with the desolation of Jerusalem. “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.” — Matthew 24:15-16
If the reader were to actually use discernment he would surely take note of the fact that the eighth chapter of Daniel foretells events destined to occur in the final part of the days, also known as the time of the end. Specifically, Daniel was informed of the ascension of the last kingdom. Concerning it, the angel said: “It exalted itself even against the Prince of the army, and from him the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. And an army was given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success. And I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one speaking: “How long will the vision of the constant feature and of the transgression causing desolation continue, to make both the holy place and the army things to trample on?”
The desolation and trampling of the holy place is exactly what Christ foretold. Although not mentioning Jerusalem by name it is implied to be the symbolic location of the sanctuary. Jerusalem and the sanctuary represent Christ’s congregation. Even the Watchtower acknowledges that fact, although preposterously claiming this prophecy was fulfilled back during the Second World War and the holy place was set right when the board of directors amended the charter of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Talk about a delusion!
The purpose of the “shaking” is to gather the “precious things” of the nations—people of faith. Once gathered those precious souls will comprise the great crowd who will come out of the tribulation. Reasonably, the formation of the great crowd will occur during the tribulation. The tribulation is the “shaking.” That is evident in the context of the 21st chapter of Luke, where Jesus went on to say: “Also, there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation. People will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.” — Luke 21:25-28
Even according to the Watchtower this aspect of Christ’s prophecy is not in evidence at this time. The nations are not in anguish. The symbolic sea of humanity is not roaring with agitation. People are not faint out of fear in dread of the ominous forebodings before them. The powers of the heavens have not been shaken.
Did you catch that? “The powers of the heavens will be shaken.” And Jesus connected the shaking with the nearness of deliverance.
It is worth noting that the original NWT used a different word in the prophecy of Haggai. It says that Jehovah is going to “rock all the nations.” That helps pull things into focus. For example, Isaiah 13:13 says: “That is why I shall cause heaven itself to become agitated, and the earth will rock out of its place at the fury of Jehovah of armies and at the day of his burning anger.”
Causing the earth to rock out of its place is some powerful, ominous imagery. Although symbolic, surely not even the Governing Body are so deluded that they imagine the message of the Watchtower has caused the figurative earth to be rocked off its foundation.
to be continued…