At the 2012 annual meeting of the Watchtower Society the Governing Body announced yet another adjustment and clarification – a continuation of a long line of many such adjustments and clarifications. It was also announced at that October meeting that a future edition of the Watchtower Magazine would expound upon what Jehovah’s Witnesses generally believe to be new flashes of divine light. And the July issue of the study edition of the Watchtower is now available online.
In what sort of devious way does the Watchtower still teach that the great tribulation began in 1914?
Why is it disingenuous to imply that Jesus and the first century disciples did not consider the temple to be a holy place?
What did Jesus intend the reader of Daniel to discern as regards the desolation of the holy place?
The purpose of this series of articles on The Watchman’s Post is to hold the Watchtower’s prophetic interpretations up to critical scrutiny and to present before thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses the manifold contradictions presented therein.
Granted, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be deeply offended and refuse to consider the facts and others may become frightened at the mere suggestion the Governing Body could be in error to any significant degree, or worse – guilty of intentionally deceiving the trusting flock. But the day is fast approaching when all of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be rudely jolted into unavoidably confronting that very reality. I say, better now than later. Why wait until the time of mass hysteria and confusion, when calm, critical thinking and reflection may be impossible? As JF Rutherford famously said on the eve of the last world war: “Face the Facts!”
The leading article, entitled: Tell us, When Will These Things Be? gives a brief summary of a few of the Society’s past erroneous views. To be sure, it is the abbreviated list. In the third paragraph they state:
“For a number of years, we thought that the great tribulation began in 1914 with World War I and that “those days were cut short” by Jehovah in 1918 when the war ended so that the remnant would have the opportunity to preach the good news to all nations.”
Truthfully, it was quite a number of years. The Watchtower first floated the idea that the great tribulation had been cut short back in 1925, which is when the 1914 invisible parousia doctrine was first beginning to take shape, and it was not until 1970 that the January 15th issue of the Watchtower overturned the teaching. So, for almost a half-century the Watchtower had taught that the great tribulation had commenced during World War I. That is “a number of years” indeed!
(Actually, it had been announced at the 1969 summer conventions and in the May 1st 1999, Watchtower the Society lauded Fred Franz for having personally given an “electrifying talk” dispelling the long-held error. Ironically, for decades Fred Franz was undoubtedly the foremost proponent of the fallacy he was praised for having refuted! Maddeningly, it is not uncommon for the Society to applaud itself for discarding nonsense it had once staunchly promoted as God’s truth, as this present article under consideration does too!)
But in a sleight-of-hand sort of way, which is also characteristic of the way in which the Society interprets prophecy, they still teach that the tribulation began during World War I – perhaps even unwittingly. How so?
First, consider the sixth chapter of Revelation. As Jehovah’s Witnesses know, the opening of the first four seals coincides with the events that Jesus foretold would accompany his presence and mark the beginning of the conclusion of the system of things. The opening of the sixth seal symbolizes the earth-rocking convulsions of the great tribulation. It reads: “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and a great earthquake occurred; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the entire moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as when a fig tree shaken by a high wind casts its unripe figs. And the heaven departed as a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and every island were removed from their places.”
The symbolism associated with the opening of the sixth seal precisely parallels what Jesus himself said, namely: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
In his saying “immediately after the tribulation of those days” Jesus may not have been referring to the great tribulation, but rather to the tribulation associated with nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom – denoting global war. Because, surely, the crash of figurative mountains and the darkening of the symbolic heavens denotes the terror and hopelessness that will engulf the world during the day of Jehovah.
Nonetheless, in their commentary on Revelation the Governing Body realizes that the seals of the symbolic scroll containing Jehovah’s judgments are unsealed in rapid succession, or in other words –“immediately.” Because of their insistence that the opening of all seven of the seals commenced in 1914 and was completed in that time-frame, the Society is forced to fabricate an explanation as to why – if the sixth seal was opened back during World War I – that, the great tribulation still has not ensued. To address this gaping contradiction the oracle of Bethel has come up with the cockamamie notion that the great upheaval of the First World War was just the preliminary “temblors” of the big one that is yet to rock the world.
Presumably, the symbolic sun was partially darkened back then too, somehow; and a few of the figurative stars must have been preliminarily shaken from the political firmament, and the symbolic moon over the earth must have also given a preliminary preview of its coming total eclipse sometime back in 1917 too.
Excuse the sarcasm, but as one of Jehovah’s s Witnesses, this is presumably what you are required to believe, because, incredibly, that is what the Watchtower actually teaches!
But does not this synthetic explanation trivialize the momentous opening of the sacred seals and make an absolute mockery of the earthshaking events associated with the apocalypse and the great tribulation?
Even more contradictory, although they say the events associated with the sixth seal have not come about yet, even though the seal has supposedly been unsealed for almost a century now, the judgments of the climatic seventh seal have already come about – supposedly, in the form of long-forgotten convention resolutions and grandiose denunciations of Satan’s world delivered by JF Rutherford back in the 1920s!
No doubt a sizable number of Jehovah’s Witnesses surely realize the Society’s interpretation is utterly absurd, but out of respect for “the slave” or fear of reprisal by the elders, they pretend to accept it. But if the Society is going to trumpet their latest clarification shouldn’t they begin by “clarifying” the interpretive claptrap they have published regarding Revelation?
In paragraphs 5 & 6 the Society states:
“We also discerned that the first part of the great tribulation did not begin in 1914. Why not? Because Bible prophecy reveals that the great tribulation will start, not with a war among nations, but with an attack on false religion…. In the ﬁrst fulﬁllment, the “standing in a holy place” occurred in 66 C.E. when the Roman army (“the disgusting thing”) attacked Jerusalem and its temple (a place holy in the eyes of the Jews). In the larger fulﬁllment, the “standing” will occur when the United Nations (the modern-day “disgusting thing”) attacks Christendom (which is holy in the eyes of nominal Christians) and the rest of Babylon the Great. The same attack is described at Revelation 17:16-18. That event will be the beginning of the great tribulation.”
Falsehoods can be very powerful. If repeated often enough and with sufficient authority by a credible source, mere lies can magically transform themselves into unquestioned truth in the human mind. It happens all the time. That is especially so with religious dogma. The clergy, for example, repeat like a chant, over and over, that God is three-in-one – a mysterious Trinity. And multitudes accept and believe it without ever questioning it.
But the same principle holds true for Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to matters pertaining to prophecy. Over and over again the Governing Body proclaims such things as Christ returned in 1914; the scarlet-colored beast arose from the abyss in 1945 in the form of the United Nations Organization and the great tribulation begins when the United Nations will attack Christendom. And the “holy place” of Jesus’ prophecy, which is destined for desolation, is Christendom. And so it goes – on and on – looping over and over, again and again.
It is noteworthy that in the very prophecy of Christ the Watchtower presumes to explain – regarding the disgusting thing standing in a holy place – Jesus urged the reader to have discernment and consult the prophecy of Daniel, intimating that the truth may not be so readily apparent, but which, can only be discerned by an understanding of Daniel. And although the article quoted Jesus’ reference to Daniel, they make no attempt to shed any light upon what Jesus may have intended the reader to discern.
Also, let the discerning reader take note of the fact that despite the Watchtower’s hackneyed reference to the 17th chapter of Revelation as proof, there is nothing in that context that mentions the great tribulation or that could be used to prove the contention that the tribulation begins when the beast devours the harlot! Apparently, the Society is resorting to employing the power of suggestion.
For a fact, it can be proven that the eighth king – hence, the last king of Bible prophecy – has not come on the scene yet. His very arrival will come after the system crashes, and from that tumult will arise the scarlet-colored beast, also known as the eighth king and the king fierce in countenance; the truth of which I have presented in numerous articles and videos on this site and do not intend to rehash here. Ironically, the eighth king may well prove to be the UN, but it will then possess much more authority and power. (See articles: Testing the Watchtower’s “Inspired Expressions” and Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mark of the Beast and An Eighth King)
While Jehovah’s Witnesses have been conditioned to suppose that their only obligation in this matter is to underline the correct question in the study article and if they are especially dutiful, to raise their hand and volunteer a comment, parroting the Watchtower’s statement from the paragraph – in their own words, of course – the apostle John advised all Christians not to believe every inspired expression; but to test the expression to see if it actually originates with God. Following the wise apostle’s exhortation, let us now put Bethel’s “inspired expression” to the test.
Did the apostles consider the temple to be holy?
Before considering the prophecy of Daniel please take note of the parenthetical interjections in the paragraph quoted above; for example, the paragraph states that Jerusalem and the temple were (a place holy in the eyes of the Jews.) And further down in another parenthetical statement they say that Christendom is holy in the eyes of nominal Christians. But I exhort you to examine the Watchtower’s statement more closely. The question is, did the Lord Jesus intend for his reference to Jerusalem and the holy place to represent something in the grander fulfillment that is actually unholy in the eyes of God’s people?
Please consider the fact that neither Jesus nor the first century Jewish Christians considered Jerusalem or the temple as something unholy to God. On the contrary, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing that the city where Jehovah had originally placed his holy name was going to be utterly destroyed. And Jesus twice ferociously cleared the money-changers out of his Father’s house.
Keep in mind that the reason the apostles asked Jesus the question: “Tell us, when will these things be”? is because they were astonished when Jesus had earlier told them that Jerusalem would be abandoned to the Jews and that the temple would be thrown down without a stone remaining standing upon a stone. It is apparent, though, that the apostles continued to regard Jerusalem and the temple to be holy up until the very time the desolator stood in the holy place.
Why, from the very beginning of Christianity the apostles are said to have been in constant attendance at the temple, preaching Christ every day within its walls. In the 5th chapter of Acts an angel even commanded Peter to go take his stand in the temple courtyard and preach. After Saul’s conversion the 22nd chapter of Acts relates how Paul was in the temple praying when he fell into a trance and Jesus directed him to leave the city and embark on is missionary tour. And some years later upon his return to Jerusalem, in his defense against the charge that he was fomenting an apostasy against Moses, Paul explained to his accusers in the 24th chapter of Acts that he had again gone up to the temple in order to worship. Ask yourself: Would Paul have gone into a temple of Zeus to worship?
Of note, the Bible writer Matthew, whom the Watchtower states composed his gospel nearly a decade into the Christian era, twice referred to Jerusalem as “the holy city.” And Jerusalem itself became the unofficial headquarters of the apostles and older men who served as the first century governing body. It was for the very reason that the Christianized Jews viewed Jerusalem and the temple as something holy that Paul emphasized in his letter to the Hebrews that the things having to do with the law and the temple were merely a shadow of greater spiritual realities. And that they did not have with Jerusalem a city that remains, but they were actually citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.
No doubt it was a great test of faith for the Jewish Christians to suddenly pull up roots and to leave everything behind when the disgusting thing came to stand in the place they regarded as holy. Perhaps some even failed the test.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are thoroughly familiar with these indisputable facts, as is their Governing Body. That being the case, is it really honest to imply that Jerusalem and its temple were only holy in the eyes of the faithless Jews who had rejected Christ; thereby, implying that the Jewish Christians did not also consider the temple to be a holy place? Of course, the reason for doing such is to present Christendom as the antitypical “holy place” destined for desolation. But is that what Christ had in mind?
Now consider the book of Daniel. There are several references to the disgusting thing that are pertinent. In the ninth chapter of Daniel the angel Gabriel explained that after Messiah had been cut off what had been decided upon was desolation, which would come upon the wing of disgusting things. Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that that aspect of the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled in the first century.
“Let the reader use discernment”
But in the grander fulfillment Daniel speaks of another disgusting thing that would come on the scene and bring desolation to a holy place.
In the long-running prophecy of the kings of the north and south, we read in Daniel 11:31: “And there will be arms that will stand up, proceeding from him; and they will actually profane the sanctuary, the fortress, and remove the constant feature. And they will certainly put in place the disgusting thing that is causing desolation.”
And finally, in the concluding verses of the prophecy of Daniel, we read: “And from the time that the constant feature has been removed and there has been a placing of the disgusting thing that is causing desolation, there will be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Happy is the one who is keeping in expectation and who arrives at the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days!”
In both instances the placing of the disgusting thing that is causing desolation is in reference to the constant feature and sanctuary. Obviously, the prophecy has reference to the profanation of something that is holy to Jehovah. And to be sure, the eighth chapter of Daniel depicts a king fierce in countenance doing the exact same thing and the angels call it “the holy place.” For your convenience Daniel 8:13 states: “How long will the vision be of the constant feature and of the transgression causing desolation, to make both the holy place and the army things to trample on?”
So, there are three instances in the book of Daniel the place holy to God is desolated by a singular entity. And, of course, the 11th chapter of Revelation similarly portrays the holy city and the temple courtyard being trampled upon by the nations for a specified period. In all of these instances the Watchtower Society attributes them to the persecution that came upon the International Bible Students during World War I or upon Jehovah’s Witnesses during WWII. (See article: And There Will Stand Up a King Fierce in Countenance)
But when it comes to the holy place that is to be profaned by a disgusting thing in Jesus’ prophecy, in which Jesus specifically referred the reader to the prophecy of Daniel, the Watchtower makes no such connection. This is obviously an intentional deception, which Jehovah’s Witnesses are unable to see through at present.
Amazingly, the Governing Body’s deception is, itself, a matter of prophecy and the focus of much of my work as a watchman of Jehovah.