Since I have been online these past 15 years I have received dozens, probably hundreds, of emails from Jehovah’s Witnesses asking the same basic question: Should I stay or should I leave the organization?
There are many and various reasons why Jehovah’s Witnesses might come to the point of questioning their faith. But usually it is brought about by a number of things, not the least of which is the perceived dishonesty and hypocrisy of the leadership of the Watchtower. Oftentimes tyrannical or uncaring elders, unkindnesses and downright nastiness within a congregation, may simply become unbearable.
Basically, all these things are what the Bible calls stumbling blocks. And Jesus said that causes for stumbling are, unfortunately, unavoidable —at least for the time being. (Luke 17:1) For example, in 1994 it became necessary for the Governing Body to address the fact that the 1914 generation that would not pass away before the end, had passed away. The Governing Body’s solution? Redefine what a generation is. Not surprisingly, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses found the Watchtower’s overlapping generations patchwork to be absurd. So, some were stumbled.
Contributing to the problem is the unrealistic view of the organization that is inculcated into Jehovah’s Witnesses; such as the notion that Jehovah’s Witnesses live in a spiritual paradise and speak the pure language of truth; that the organization is the symbolic mountain of the house of Jehovah that has been lifted up on high. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses have such a lofty view of the mother organization —as if it were the very embodiment of the Kingdom of God —anyone who suffers evil or voices any disagreement is looked upon with suspicion —as being disloyal to God.
Because elders are required to give their unquestioning support to the Watchtower, anyone in the congregation who approaches an overseer and voices any complaint, about, say for example, the Watchtower’s long-running covert war on child abuse victims, is not going to get a sympathetic ear.
Without doubt the underlying fundamental error is the delusion that Christ has already become king, that he has already come as a refiner to set matters straight. As a result Jehovah’s Witnesses have no realistic, biblical basis for hope. After all, if God has bestowed his full blessing already —and there is a lot to be desired —than what is the point of carrying on?
The topper, though, is the sheer arrogance of the leadership, who, although undoubtedly well aware that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, have either left the organization completely or have chosen to “fade” into inactivity, and yet the Governing Body take no responsibility for this sad state of affairs. Their refusal to address their own failures is one of the primary reasons so many once zealous Jehovah’s Witnesses have become spiritually sickened to the point of death.
As stated above, the Governing Body are keenly aware of the slow-motion exodus, which has been accelerated by the free flow of information on the Internet in the past 20 years. To address the problem the Watchtower published a brochure entitled Return to Jehovah (2015). Consider a segment of the Governing Body’s forward:
Please know that it is in a similar spirit that we have prepared this brochure. First we listened, carefully considering the circumstances and expressions of a number who drifted away. (Proverbs 18:13) Then we turned to the Scriptures, prayerfully examining accounts of how Jehovah helped his servants in the past when they faced similar circumstances. Finally we combined those Scriptural accounts with modern-day experiences to produce this brochure. We warmly invite you to examine this material. Please be assured of our sincere love for you.
Given the fact that the brochure does not address any of the aforementioned issues that untold numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses might give as a reason for their departure, the Governing Body’s claim of sincerely listening is suspect at best.
While there is no question that some have simply drifted away or had people problems within their congregations and suffered hurt feelings, and surely a considerable number have gotten ensnared in sin and worldliness, as the brochure indicates, no doubt a growing number of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been stumbled by the Watchtower itself. And unfortunately it is only going to get worse going forward.
In his discourse of the sign of his coming, Jesus foretold that “many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will grow cold.”
Contrary to the Watchtower’s assertion, Jesus was speaking of a development among Christians. An “increasing of lawlessness” does not relate to a rising crime rate in the world, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been led to believe. The lawlessness is towards God. For example, when Jesus will say to those who call him “Lord, Lord,” and they will boast of their works in his name, in response Christ will reply to them: “Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Furthermore, Paul foretold that a man of lawlessness would foment an outright apostasy against God as an immediate prelude to the powerful presence and manifestation of Christ. According to Paul, Satan’s man of lawlessness ultimately enthrones himself in the temple of God, which according to Paul is symbolic of Christ’s congregation. The apostle forewarned Christians that the mystery of this lawlessness was already at work. The mystery of lawlessness certainly describes the shady doings of the Watchtower, such as their secretive political partnership with the UN and their backroom lawyering that violates the very essence of true religion, namely to render judgment in behalf of the downtrodden. Even the mysterious subliminal images presented in various Watchtower publications is a subtle hint of an invisible, satanic element within “Jehovah’s visible organization.
Interestingly, many years ago J.F. Rutherford realized that the man of lawlessness —or “man of sin” according to the King James Version —could not be the Papacy or the clergy in general, but represented an apostate element that originated among those recognized as God’s people. At the time he also rightly correlated the man of lawlessness with the evil slave who worked among the faithful slave feeding the Lord’s domestics, but wrongly identified the breakaway Bible Student sects as the evil class. (See 1930 Watchtower page 276) Shortly after Rutherford’s passing the Watchtower reverted to the clergy being the man of lawlessness and in their latest revision of Jesus’ parable the evil slave has been rendered into a non-existent hypothetical.
But if Jehovah’s Witnesses are the true faith why are there stumbling blocks in the first place? The prophecy of Daniel sheds some light on it. Speaking of the nefarious activity of the king of the north, the prophet states: “And those who act wickedly against the covenant, he will lead into apostasy by means of smooth words. But the people who know their God will prevail and act effectively. And those having insight among the people will impart understanding to the many. And they will be made to stumble by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plundering, for some days. But when they are made to stumble, they will be given a little help; and many will join with them by means of smooth speech. And some of those having insight will be made to stumble, in order to do a refining work because of them and to do a cleansing and a whitening until the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed.”
According to the words written down in the book of truth, those with insight and those who have been led into apostasy, are in the same covenant, meaning they are in Christ’s congregation —otherwise how could some act wickedly against the covenant? This is in accord with the teachings of Jesus; namely, that there is a faithful and unfaithful slave, both of whom work within the same household up until the time of the end.
What happens when the time of the end arrives? Initially, sword, flame and captivity, when many more are made to stumble —as Jesus foretold. But ultimately during the time of the end, or the conclusion of the system, Jesus will dispatch his powerful angels to remove all persons doing lawlessness and all things that cause stumbling. Where are they removed from? Jesus said, “out from his Kingdom.”
As foretold in Daniel, the stumbling blocks serve a purpose —to accomplish a cleansing and whitening. The safeguard against stumbling is knowing Jehovah. Ultimately, the refined ones will impart understanding to the many when they shine as brightly as the sun in Jehovah’s Kingdom, after the lawless persons have been removed.
So, in answer to the question, should I stay or should I go? My advice is to know the judgments of Jehovah and love his truth, because ultimately “abundant peace belongs to those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” —Psalms 119:165