The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
Jehovah's Christian Witnesses
Blog Friend Niacey asked:Happy Birthday to you! Glad you are celebrating 9 years! I have visited quit a time before and have seen how diverse your religion is. I am researching the BiBle for my own personal reasons and of sourse there are always times when there are questions.
What do you think about the beliefs of Jehovah Witnesses? and why are they so ademant about the 144,000 that are to rise into heaven. Is the old earth really going to be where the new paradise is?
When do you think we will see the prophet in the BiBle near the sign of times or is he already here?My Reply:
I was a JW for about three years (and a "Pioneer" for two of them).
I have mixed opinions about Watchtower.
I agree with them on some points, I disagree with them on others.
As for the 144,000... The Witnesses have what I consider to be an absolutely bazaar teaching here. Here is the source:
Revelation 7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
There is absolutely no way the 144,000 are what the Watchtower Society says they are. According to the Witnesses 144,000 humans of all races (either Jews or true Christians) have been chosen by Jehovah God to be kings and priests of the world. These people, the Witnesses say, have been chosen over the past 2000 years or so and are known as the faithful and discrete servant class. They alone go to Heaven.
Everyone else, when they die, experience "soul sleep" and await the coming of Jesus and the 144,000 in their graves. Then they will wake up and live on the Paradise Earth for all eternity.
When the Witnesses celebrate the Lord's Supper/Passover, once a year, a very few of them "know" that they are of this select group. As a Witness I only knew three of these people. Only they are allowed to partake in the bread and wine. In the vast majority of Kingdom Halls (their churches) no one partakes in this annual rite.
This doctrine has absolutely no scriptural or historic validation.
As for Paradise Earth, the vast majority of Christians believe something not taught in the Bible that the Witnesses got right. Paradise will be on the earth according to the Bible. Humans are made for the earth, angels are made for heaven.
The Witnesses are mistaken about soul sleep however.
II Cor.5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
As most of my readers know, I believe in reincarnation but I'll leave that aside for now...
According to a literal reading of the New Testament, when Christians die they immediately go to Heaven as spirits, as most Christians believe.
However, when the Kingdom is established these people will return to the earth for the 1000 year reign of Messiah. At the end of the 1000 years, "Satan will be released from his prison" and there will be a final battle wherein humans, inspired by demons, will seek to overturn the Kingdom. They will loose.
Then, the earth will be transformed "as by fire" and the "New Jerusalem" will descend from the heavens to earth and Messiah will live there and rule the paradise earth forever:
Revelation 21It is of this period that Paul says,
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
But as it is written,Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
So, on this they are correct.
On the 144,000 and soul sleep they are not.
They are also, in my opinion, right that Jesus was fully human.
They are also correct that no where does the Bible teach the existence of hell.
It is odd that they stress using the name of Jehovah but do so with a poor English translation of the name. God's Name is YHVH in Hebrew. Ancient Hebrew was written without vowels so we don't know the exact pronunciation. Jehovah is from: JaHoVaH, it is doubtless more accurate to have it as YaHVeH but again, no one knows for sure, not even the Jews. The spelling is Yod He Vav He. To honor the name by the way, most Jews say HaShem (the Name) or Adonay (the Lord) and never or seldom pronounce the Holy Name.
The Witnesses are also, in my opinion, incorrect on certain key points of prophecy. They believe the Antichrist will not be a specific human ruler but "the evil world system of things." I believe they are incorrect. I am convinced there will be a human ruler who will be the Beast, the Antichrist. I believe, unlike the Witnesses, that Israel is the key to all prophecy. When they returned as a nation in 1948 and captured Jerusalem in 1967 the main sign of the times took place, the end of the Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).
The Witnesses believe that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society replaced the Jews and the Christian Church as the only true representatives of God.
The Witnesses now teach that Jesus returned in 1914 in a spirit form. Prior to 1914 however they said he would take his throne then and that that generation would never die. See this 1984 Watchtower magazine cover:
They offered a couple of later dates when he would begin his Theocratic reign, the last was 1975. In 1976 for the first time since their founding the Witnesses loss more members than they added, I was one of these. I left around February of 1976.
The WatchTower Society:
Charles Taze Russell was a deeply religious man from his earliest years. As a child he attended services at the local Presbyterian Church, at thirteen he joined a Congregational Church. But by age sixteen, the youthful religious seeker began questioning his faith, as it was exhibiting in the existing churches of his awareness. Russell spent his mid-teens studying Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism but his cursory studies convinced his that they were unsatisfactory as well. At eighteen, he attended an Adventist meeting held by Jonas Wendell (1815 - 1873) and enthusiastically embraced the idea of 1874 as the date for the "rapture of the Church." Russell's faith in Christianity was restored.
In 1876 Russell read Nelson H. Barbour's (1824-1908) Herald of the Morning and believed he had found true Christianity. This newly restored faith convinced him that in 1878 Christ planned to rapture his true Church away from the earth and conduct a global devastation in preparation for the coming kingdom. Russell sold his belonging and donating the money to Barbour to spread the word. That same year, Russell began to write as well. His published work seems to have been The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return.
In time Russell and Barbour parted ways, both physically and spiritually. Russell ceased his support of Barbour and published his teachings under the title Studies in the Scriptures. Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, was first issued in July, 1879 ( note 26. ). Russell continued his ministry, and Barbour formed the Church of the Strangers that same year, and continued to publish the Herald of the Morning.
Russell's doctrines centered on the Adventist (Millerite) belief that the world, "the present evil system of things," was destined to end on or around October 1, 1914. He offered support for this belief by Milleresque interpretations of the Bible and his own mystical analysis of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was founded as the vehicle for Russell's teachings and in 1884, the organization was legally chartered. There were now hundreds of "Russellites" and Russell came to be known as "the Pastor." As his fame spread, the Pastor received global recognition, and condemnation for his teachings, many of which were considered heretical, his belief in Arianism was chief among these. Not only was Jesus not accepted as the Third Person of a Trinity, Russell explained that he was actually the physical manifestation of the archangel Michael and he was loudly condemned by the traditional Church.
When 1914 passed without the Second Coming, the Watch Tower Society explained that Jesus had indeed returned in 1914! His Advent however had been invisible (BF 457,458). On the way to Earth, Jesus fought with Satan and bound him to the earth lest he escape Jehovah's wrath (Luke 10:18). In a move reminiscent of the SDA, the Watch Tower Society used a teaching similar to the SDA's investigative judgment justification, to explain that the First World War, which began in 1914, "obviously" marked the occasion of the beginning of the Last days. Jesus had indeed returned to the earth in 1914, as the Pastor said. He had merely done so invisibly in preparation for his work of restoration, thus giving Russell's followers, the faithful and discrete servant class, time to preach his message "unto the ends of the earth" (Matt. 24:14). All the wars, natural disasters and bloodshed that have occurred since then are those prophesied by the Bible in Matthew 24 and elsewhere. This prophecy, and the explanation of its apparent failure, may seem far fetched at first, but when you consider his sources and rationale, coupled with the apocalyptic excitement of the day, it is understandable how millions of people, including the mother of Dwight D. Eisenhower, could accept his predictions and interpretations.
Pastor Charles Taze Russell died on October 31, 1916 aboard a train from apparently natural causes. In January 1917, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford became the new leader of the Watch Tower Society. Almost at once, Judge Rutherford began altering Russell's teachings and major controversies arose within the Society. Among the teachings the Judge rejected, was Russell's use of Pyramidology ( note 27. ). As early as 1918, there were dissenting voices being heard within the Society. Around ¾ of the congregations rejected the Judge's changes, but he held firm as the anointed leader of Jehovah's people. The Judge's rejection of Russell's personal role in the restoration of the truth, in February 1927, and his rejection of the Great Pyramid beliefs, in November 1928, resulted in a split within the group. The Bible Students who remained supportive of the Judge's changes adopted the new name of Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931, and changed the name of the Society to the International Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (International Bible Students Association of Jehovah's Christian Witnesses) (W). The Judge changed the congregations from independent, interlinked communities to a highly structured hierarchy run by Watchtower Society appointed elders, the "faithful and discrete servant class" of which he was the head. While there are still Russellite "Bible Students such as the Dawn Bible Students Association," the organization restructured by Judge Rutherford remains the primary successor of Charles Taze Russell.
Simply stated, like Ellen White and others, Russell was an Adventist of the Millerite persuasion who carried the teachings in a new yet logical direction.
The determination of these various dates were, for the most part, based on an interpretation of the Bible. Many people use similar methods and continue to do so today. Even the celebrated Reverend Charles Larkin employed this basic method of Biblical interpretation note 28 . In order to understand these Adventist movements therefore, it seems appropriate to demonstrate one of these popular methods of prophetic dating. In order to follow along it will be helpful to read the indicated Scriptural passages. It should be understood that those who accept this system of interpretation and millions still do, accept the Bible not only as the revealed Word of God, but also as the partially concealed Word of God, disclosed only to those who "have eyes to see."
Daniel chapter four speaks of a "great tree" that, by Divine decree, is cut down and banded till "seven times" pass over it. This tree, they say, represents governmental authority according to the text (vs. 25). Many Adventists (and others) teach that the tree had a deeper meaning however. It represented the prophesied Kingdom of God. When the "bands" of this prophetic tree are removed, the Kingdom of God will blossom, and, after the seven year rule of Anti-Christ according to some (the Witness do not believe the Antichrist will be an individual human being), the millennium will begin (comp. Ezek. 17:22-24). From this we may understand, according to this system, that God's kingdom will be restored "seven times" after it was cut down, even as King Nebuchadnezzar returned to his senses after seven times or, in that case, seven literal years (Dan. 4:28-37).
So the question is, how long are these seven times? Since the Hebrews used a lunar calendar, we would normally have to translate into solar years, however the length of the prophetic year (and this is a prophecy) is set at a constant 360 days, with each day symbolically composing a full year, "a day for a year, a day for a year" (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6 etc.). In the Book of Revelation we read that 1,260 days equals "a time, and times, and a half a time" (12:6, 14). This being established by Scripture, 1,260 days (or 31/2 times) doubled would equal 2520 actual years as the length of seven times.
These "years" are said to have begun when the "tree" was cut down. According to this view, this cutting down refers to the destruction of God's Kingdom on earth, i.e., to the destruction of Zion/Jerusalem (God's holy city and the throne of his earthly government) and its Temple. At that time, the tree was banded. So when did this occur?
The Hebrew Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, who took Zedekiah off God's Throne and into exile. This desecration occurred in 606 B.C.E (BF 180) note 29 . Hence, from 606 B.C.E. the "seven times" began their prophetic countdown: 2520-606=1914, the date cited by Russell as the 'end of the age' note 30 .
This prophetic system is described at length in Jehovah's Witness' book Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules! (BF 177-181). Like Miller, as the years following the predicted date passed, the Watchtower Society tried to pinpoint other dates for the physical manifestation of Jesus and His earthly kingdom, but with no better success. The last such date was 1975 note 31 . As Miller finally gave up issuing dates, it appears that the Witnesses have done the same (except that rather than admit their error or blame it on faulty texts as Miller did, the Watchtower Society decided to change history and deny the prophecies were ever even made! Many of us know know better).
Hope this helps,
May God bless,
~John of AllFaith
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- Note 26:Today known as The Watchtower. A companion magazine called Awake! is also published. return
- Note 27: By the insistence of the Society's second president, Judge Rutherford. return
- Note 28: Larkin's system is based on the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the reestablishment of the nation of Israel. By interpretations based on Daniel 9:24-27, he predicted the Belfor Treaty (of 1918) and the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Christ is to return within one generation of 1948 (based on Matt. 24:34, DT). return
- Note 29: In the fifth month (Ab), on the tenth day of the month, that is, in the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar [sic], the king of Babylon, Nebuzar-adan the chief of the bodyguard ... proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah (BF 159). return
- Note 30: The dates are subtracted because they occurred before the common era. return
- Note 31: Present day Witnesses sometimes deny the Society ever issued the 1975 date, however I was a Pioneer Witness in 1975, which means a full-time evangelist, and I heard this date repeatedly from the Elders. In 1976 ten percent of the Witnesses left due to this. return