The span of verses in question reads: “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.”
Jesus’ prophecy originally forecast events that were fulfilled in a general way in the first century — but only in a general way. However, it does establish a pattern of how events will ultimately unfold in the finale.
As you likely are aware Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all the essential elements of Jesus’ prophecy have already been realized over the course of the past century. Has there been an increasing of criminal lawlessness in recent decades? Without a doubt.
How about persecution? Certainly Jehovah’s Witnesses have been objects of hatred in the world too. Untold numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned and even put to death by the Nazis and Soviet communists; and Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to be persecuted by officials in various lands — particularly the Islamic nations of the former USSR.
Also, it is easy to point to clerics and cultists in Christendom as the false prophets who have arisen to mislead the masses.
As far as the good news of the kingdom being preached throughout the earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses have also undeniably spearheaded a remarkable world-wide kingdom witnessing campaign in hundreds of languages.
Certainly these developments, beginning with the critical turning point in 1914, have thoroughly convinced Jehovah’s Witnesses that — except for the outbreak of the great tribulation — the words of Christ have already come to pass.
However, upon closer examination, there are compelling reasons to believe that these events have not fulfilled the prophecy as the Watchtower Society presently projects.
Take the matter of the foretold increasing of lawlessness and the cooling off of the love of the greater number.
“Lawlessness,” as it is used in the Scriptures, does not necessarily relate to criminal activity; but rather, to apostasy and hypocrisy. For example, Jesus said that he would tell all religious hypocrites who spoke falsely in his name to “get away from me you workers of lawlessness.” Then there is the “man of lawlessness,” whom Paul wrote about, who promotes apostasy among Christians and even sits down in Jehovah’s temple, pretending to be God.
As for the cooling off, that must pertain to Jehovah’s people as well. Consider the fact that Jesus rebuked some of the anointed Ephesian Christians in his letter to them in Revelation for leaving the love they had at first. As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses know, Jesus’ letters to the seven congregations really apply to Christ’s anointed followers in the Lord’s day. It shows that some anointed Christians allow their love for God to grow cold. So, it is evident that the increasing of lawlessness and hypocrisy, along with a cooling off of love for God, takes place among Jehovah’s Witnesses and not Christendom, as is presently imagined. (For a more thoroughly discussion of this aspect of the sign of Jesus’ presence see the essay entitled: A Closer Look at 1914)
In order to better understand Jesus’ prophecy it is well that we consider the same prophecy as it was recorded by Mark and Luke. Although the essentials are the same, there a few unique details in each Gospel account that differ from each other. Let’s consider an aspect of both accounts in Mark and Luke that is omitted by Matthew, which foretell that Christ’s witnesses will be persecuted in their synagogues and hauled before judges and even kings and that brothers and family members will have Christ’s chosen ones put to death.
Here is where it is important to take note of the first century pattern and the fact that Jesus did not originally set his disciples strictly apart from the Jews. Even after his anointing as the Messiah Jesus went to the temple and even attended services in local synagogues and no doubt his apostles and male disciples did so too. In fact, Jesus even announced his anointing in front of a congregation in his local synagogue — for which he was immediately persecuted.
However, after Jesus was resurrected all of that changed. Prior to Jesus’ death the disciples had been instructed to go out preaching saying “the kingdom of God has drawn near.” But after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and the outpouring of the holy spirit ten days later, the apostles and disciples began preaching a slightly different message. They no longer announced that the kingdom was near, but instead they bore witness to Christ’s resurrection and that the kingdom was here — “here” as the newly formed congregation of God with Christ as the King of a spiritual kingdom. The Jewish institution that Jehovah had used and that Christ recognized and supported had suddenly become irrelevant.
It was the continued witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection that aroused the hatred and animosity of the Jewish establishment, who were the very ones who had killed Christ. The apostles were hauled before the high court and ordered to stop preaching. Peter was imprisoned for a brief time. Afterwards, a great persecution arose. During that first wave of persecution the apostle James was killed, also Stephen. The book of Acts reports that all of the disciples living in Jerusalem were scattered. No doubt that meant that they also were thrown out of the synagogues and ostracized from their non-believing family members and from the Jewish community and the religion they were accustomed to. Later, Paul was hauled before governors and kings. But since all of the original Christians were Jewish and they did not at first renounce Judaism when they became believers, the “brothers” who persecuted them were their own Jewish country men. After congregations sprang up outside of Palestine the Jews also took to persecuting non-Jewish believers.
What does the first century pattern establish for us? Anointed Christians today among Jehovah’s Witnesses are in a similar position relative to the Lord’s parousia as were the apostles before Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then, as now, the apostles and 70 whom Jesus sent out to preach did not fully grasp how Jehovah’s purposes were going to develop. Although they were charged with announcing that the kingdom had drawn near the apostles were laboring under the fallacy that Jesus was going to become an earthly king and re-establish the kingdom of David in Jerusalem right then and there. They could not comprehend what Jesus was saying when he spoke of his death and resurrection. (See essay: Who is Blind?) The Watchtower’s “invisible presence” doctrine has similarly deluded Jehovah’s Witnesses into believing that the kingdom is already here.
Nevertheless, in spite of the apostles’ ignorance, Jesus told them that they would not complete the circuit of Israel until the son of man arrived. So, in that respect they fully accomplished their ministry and then the resurrected son of man arrived. But before that, when Jesus was arrested and executed, all of the apostles and disciples were stumbled. But when Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, he first rebuked them for being senseless and slow of heart to believe, but then he fully opened up their minds to understand the prophecies as they related to Christ. The transformation of the apostles was astounding.
Jesus’ numerous supernatural appearances before his disciples immediately following his resurrection, including his last manifestation before Paul as the glorified king of God’s kingdom, establishes a pattern to be fulfilled during Christ’s parousia. Just as those apostles were originally entrusted with a preaching work, even though they were in a state of ignorance that was not remedied until after Jesus appeared to them from the spirit realm, so too, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been preaching about God’s kingdom in a similar state of ignorance and disbelief that will not be dispelled until the actual revelation of Christ. Just as Jesus literally appeared before his disciples after his resurrection, we should not suppose that the manifestation and revelation of Jesus Christ in glory will be anything less.
The “invisible presence” doctrine adopted by C.T. Russell is a fraud, a hoax, which has allowed the Watchtower to convince Jehovah’s Witnesses that the glorious day of the Lord’s presence has already begun. The Society has effectively rendered the manifestation of Christ into a non-event. Jehovah, of course, has allowed an operation of error of this nature in order to set the stage for a final decisive test to be imposed that will separate the true for the false.
Just imagine if Jesus returned today and he revealed himself in some miraculous manner to his chosen ones! What a shock that would be to those who were convinced that Jesus has already been invisibly present since 1914! (See article: The Visible Parousia of Jesus Christ)
But just as the resurrected Jesus only appeared to those within the Jewish system who had already proven themselves to be his disciples, in the same way the presence of Christ will only become manifest to his approved chosen ones within the Watchtower Society. At that point the Watchtower Society will have served its purpose, just as Jerusalem and the Jewish system had in the first century. That will inevitably set the stage for the true sons of God being persecuted and reviled by those who are organizationally bound to the Society’s 1914 operation of error.
In view of the fact that the Watchtower is hard-set and determined to disfellowship every Witness who rejects or even questions the 1914 dogma, it seems inevitable that those who eventually are compelled by the spirit to bear witness to the genuine presence of Christ will be thrown from the synagogues (kingdom halls).
During the confusion of war and global pandemic the Society’s hardline loyalists stand posed to act as false prophets and persecutors of Christ’s chosen brothers. Add the pressures brought on by dictatorial tyranny and a police state, it is not hard to envision a scenario where congregational brothers and family members betray Christ’s followers to authorities.
Such a development would bring about the circumstances, whereby, Jesus’ chosen and sealed brothers would find themselves in prison, sickly and on the street without a home—naked and hungry. It should be recognized that at present no such conditions exist among those even professing to be anointed. The implosion of the Watchtower Society at Christ’s presence would set the stage for the judgment of the sheep and the goats.