THE story is told of a boy who watched the sheep of the villagers. To stir up a bit of excitement, one day he cried out, “Wolf! Wolf!” when there was no wolf. The villagers rushed out with clubs to drive off the wolf, only to find that there was none. It was such great fun that later on the boy repeated his cry. Again the villagers rushed out with their clubs, only to discover that it was another false alarm. After that a wolf did come, and the boy sounded the warning, “Wolf! Wolf!” but the villagers dismissed his cry as another false alarm. They had been fooled too often.
So it has become with those who proclaim the end of the world. Down through the centuries since Jesus’ day, so many unfulfilled predictions have been made that many no longer take them seriously.
Gregory I, pope from 590 to 604 C.E., in a letter to a European monarch, said: “We also wish Your Majesty to know, as we have learned from the words of Almighty God in Holy Scriptures, that the end of the present world is already near and that the unending Kingdom of the Saints is approaching.”
In the 16th century, Martin Luther, progenitor of the Lutheran Church, predicted that the end was imminent. According to one authority, he stated: “For my part, I am sure that the day of judgment is just around the corner.”
Concerning one of the first Baptist groups, it is reported: “The Anabaptists of the early Sixteenth Century believed that the Millennium would occur in 1533.”
“Edwin Sandys (1519-1588), Archbishop of York and Primate of England . . . says, . . . ‘Let us be assured that this coming of the Lord is near.’”
William Miller, generally credited with founding the Adventist Church, is quoted as saying: “I am fully convinced that sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844, according to the Jewish mode of computation of time, Christ will come.” http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2008/12/william-miller-herald-of-second-advent.html
Does the failure of such predictions to come true convict as false prophets those who made them, within the meaning of Deuteronomy 18:20-22? That text reads: “The prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak.”
There are some who make spectacular predictions of the world’s end to grab attention and a following, but others are sincerely convinced that their proclamations are true. They are voicing expectations based on their own interpretation of some scripture text or physical event. They do not claim that their predictions are direct revelations from Jehovah and that in this sense they are prophesying in Jehovah’s name. Hence, in such cases, when their words do not come true, they should not be viewed as false prophets such as those warned against at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. In their human fallibility, they misinterpreted matters.
Undeterred by previous failures, some seem to have been spurred on by the approach of the year 2000 and have made further predictions of the end of the world. The Wall Street Journal of December 5, 1989, published an article entitled “Millennium Fever: Prophets Proliferate, the End Is Near.” With the year 2000 approaching, various evangelicals are predicting that Jesus is coming and that the 1990’s will be “a time of troubles that has not been seen before.” At the time of this writing, the latest occurrence was in the Republic of Korea, where the Mission for the Coming Days predicted that on October 28, 1992, at midnight, Christ would come and take believers to heaven. Several other doomsday groups made similar predictions.
The flood of false alarms is unfortunate. They are like the wolf-wolf cries of the shepherd boy—people soon dismiss them, and when the true warning comes, it too is ignored. But why has there been such a tendency through the centuries and down to our day for false alarms to be sounded, as Jesus said they would be? (Matthew 24:23-26) Jesus, after telling his followers about different events that would mark his return, said to them, as we read at Matthew 24:36-42: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. . . . Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
They were told not only to be on the watch and to be prepared but also to watch with eagerness. Romans 8:19 says: “For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.” Human nature is such that when we fervently hope and yearn for something and wait in eager expectation of it, a powerful temptation arises within us to see it at the door even when the evidence is insufficient. In our eagerness false alarms may be sounded.
What, then, will distinguish the true warning from the false ones? For the answer, please see the following article.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah.’ The Watchtower, the official journal of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has said: “We have not the gift of prophecy.” (January 1883, page 425) “Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible.” (December 15, 1896, page 306) The Watchtower has also said that the fact that some have Jehovah’s spirit “does not mean those now serving as Jehovah’s witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes.” (May 15, 1947, page 157) “The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic.” (August 15, 1950, page 263) “The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim. 3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18)”—February 15, 1981, page 19. - March 22, 1993 Awake, WTB&TS
Additional Reading: http://www.jehovah.to/exe/general/prophetic.htm Also See: http://jehovah.to/xlation/fp.html ______________________________________________________________
Occasionally, The Watchtower (for example 1 April 1972) has referred to true Christians (not specifically to the writers of Watch Tower publications) as “prophets”. However, the word is placed in inverted commas, which shows that it is not meant literally. The 1972 article is simply drawing parallels between experiences in the life of the prophet Ezekiel and those of Christians today as they fulfil Christ’s commission to preach to all the nations. This sense of the word ‘prophecy’ is recognised by many ‘mainstream’ Christians., Billy Graham’s biography is called “A prophet with Honor”. Pope John Paul II spoke of ‘the ‘prophetic office’ of the People of God - meaning their responsibility to give a Christian witness. (http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0264of.htm) In view of other comments (cited in the main article) in which the Society specifically repudiates prophet status, both before and after this article was published, attempts to use this article to demonstrate that the Watch Tower Society claims to be an inspired prophet are obviously misrepresenting the sense of the article. http://jehovah.to/xlation/fp.html
Ridiculers in the last days, you know who you are, don't you!
“As for you, beloved ones, call to mind the sayings that have been previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how they used to say to you: ‘In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things.’ These are the ones that make separations, animalistic men, not having spirituality.” (Jude 17-19) Beloved ones, this is now the second letter I am writing YOU, in which, as in my first one, I am arousing YOUR clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, that YOU should remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through YOUR apostles. For YOU know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” (2 Peter 3: 1-4) ___________________________________________________________________
As we have been to some extent, by the grace of God, used in the ministry of the gospel, it may not be out of place to say here what we have frequently said in private, and previously in these columns,--namely, that while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name. The name of him who died for all--the name Christian--is quite sufficient to designate the spiritual sons of God, the true brethren of Christ; and whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil, of carnality, and tends toward more of the same. Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures. The most we claim or have ever claimed for our teachings is, that they are what we believe to be harmonious interpretations of the divine Word, in harmony with the spirit of the truth. And we still urge, as in the past, that each reader study the subjects we present in the light of the Scriptures, proving all things by the Scriptures, accepting what they see to be thus approved, and rejecting all else. It is to this end, to enable the student to trace the subject in the divinely inspired Record, that we so freely intersperse both quotations and citations of the Scriptures upon which to build. - Charles Taze Russell, December 15, 1896
Bible interpretation and 1975While studying with Jehovah’s witnesses in the mid 1980’s I was surprised to hear from other associates (who weren’t to happy to hear of my newfound studies) that the witnesses had, in my associates words, “emphatically stated that the end would come in 1975”. I was sure this wasn’t the case since I had been going to meetings off and on with my mother throughout this time period and didn’t remember any cries of “Armageddon is nigh, etc…”. Yes, I would have been somewhat young at the time I know, but a discussion of “The End” would have caught my attention at my young age, I’m sure of it, I thought to myself sincerely. Well, my acquaintance at the time was a sincere non-denominational Pentecostal and he just knew I was involving myself with a false prophet because of this. And we all know what the bible says of false prophets, more or less that they are proven not to be of God (compare Duet 18:20-22). Yes, as far as he knew I was throwing my life away by involving myself with this group. As you might have guessed I was very disturbed by the whole thing and I just had to research this “stay alive till 75”, what did the society really say about it? Did they, in fact, “prophecy” the end for this time? You can imagine the quandary I found myself in. If the society was a false prophet I couldn’t accept it as the truth and I would simply have to move on to continue my search. But, maybe there was more to this than I knew at the time. What would I find? My future life would definitely be affected by what I would find and I knew it would be critical for me to learn the truth!
First of all, why the excitement over this year? As mentioned in my previous article on “1925”, God’s people have always had ones among them who, for whatever reason, want to know “the day and the hour” see- (Matthew 24:36)”. This is a general statement but seems to be true in my experiences. Some just have to know when the end is coming (si book pg 287 par 13). Remember that the apostles, in their youth, also were inquisitive about Jesus return. They wanted it right away, if possible (see Acts 1). So, it’s not shocking that God’s modern day servants would, from time to time, expect the end. This has occurred, by some, more or less, at certain dates such as 1914, 1925 and 1975 (see The Proclaimers book pg 104). But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jehovah’s people are not being used as God’s instrument on earth today. I will explain this fully in just a moment, but for now, why all the talk of 1975? This discussion, in print, began evidently around the years 1965-1966 with the release of a book entitled “Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God”. The book features a chart on pages 31-35 of Bible Chronology. The understanding at the time was that 6,000 years of mans existence would end in 1975. The book states on page 29, “According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man’s creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin the fall of 1975 C.E.”
The book goes on in par 42, page 29, “So in not many years within our own generation we are reaching what Jehovah God could view (italics mine-cgross) as the seventh day of man’s existence.” On page 30, par 43 it states, “How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a Sabbath period of rest and release…It would be most fitting on God’s part, for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ…for a thousand years.” “It would not be by mere chance or accident…for the reign of Jesus Christ…to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man’s existence.”
With statements like these, although few found in this publication, you could perhaps understand why there was an excitement stirring for 1975. In discussing this subject with older ones who were around at this tumultuous time I find that some areas (geographically speaking) were more prone to be liberal with their understanding than other areas that kept the reigns on this belief that 1975 would be “the end”. Some would mention even at the doors in their ministry work that “the end was coming in 1975”. This was not what the publication said however and some understandably found themselves stumbled when 1976 arrived and nothing had happened as they might have expected it to. When the publication was initially released it’s interesting to note what Brother Fred Franz said to a young man who asked him point blank, “Say, what does this 1975 mean?” Notice how the Proclaimers book goes on to explain Brother Franz’s candid response:
*** jv 104 8 Declaring the Good News Without Letup (1942-1975) ***
Brother Franz then referred to the many questions that had arisen as to whether the material in the new book meant that by 1975 Armageddon would be finished, and Satan would be bound. He stated, in essence: ‘It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.’ I’ve highlighted the response that seems to “nip it in the bud”. Although for reasons of humility and the societies own appreciation to battle creature worship (worship of a personality or man) the society does not list the authors of the publications as they once did in earlier years. The understanding that Fred Franz was most likely the author though, or at least a contributor to the above publication is generally agreed upon and perhaps gives weight to the statement, “and don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975”. Brother Franz was a member of the Bible Students (as they were then known) in 1914 and 1925 and no doubt personally knew the damage that could be caused by being dogmatic about dates of bible prophecy. The chronology was very interesting and could spark personal intrigue and excitement but none of God’s people should have been specific about saying anything about this date. But, some regrettably did and the effects were felt worldwide. For example see the experiences below with the references listed…
*** yb95 227 Mexico *** There Came a Time of Sifting There were strong expectations concerning the year 1975 and what it might mean in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose. Some set their hearts on that date as the time when the old system would be destroyed and God’s new world would be established. When those expectations were not realized, there were some who ceased serving God. A number became apostates. But the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses were motivated by love for Jehovah. They knew that God’s Word would never fail.
*** yb88 189-90 Korea *** A CAUSE FOR CONCERN “We hope the brothers are careful in their teaching. Evidently some were very strong on the 1975 date, and so a good foundation was not laid. The foundation, of course, should be faith in Christ Jesus and the ransom sacrifice, and the dedication should be with understanding.”
A very candid observation indeed! Too much emphasis was placed on a date by some Bible teachers. Many newly baptized ones took up the truth on a wave of emotion. Even some elders had their hopes pinned to 1975. … The effect: apathy among the brothers. The following are just a few recent articles on the effect of 1975 on two countries, namely Mexico and Korea. The societies very candid write-ups on these challenging times certainly educates us on the dangers of serving the true God for selfish reasons or a belief that the end is tailored to us somehow or our time schedule. This should never be the case and as the Korean example shows really courts disaster when a prospective Bible student has a “date” in mind for his Christian foundation instead of a strong faith in Christ. One contemporary author in his publication “Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended” states this on page 494 concerning 1975,
“Even though some in the organization may have put too great an emphasis on the chronology put forth by the Society, in print, the Society itself always maintained the proper outlook: “This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that ‘concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, but only the Father.’ (Matt 24:36)” Those who ignored this advice, and who served Jehovah only because they believed Armageddon would come in 1975, should have given closer attention to Jesus’ words, and to what the Society actually said, rather than allow a certain date to provide the impetus for their sacred service.”
Now, that we’ve discussed what was said. We might ask the question as posed at the outset of our discussion. How should we feel about what was printed in the “Life Everlasting” book. Remember the statements taken by themselves stirred much excitement and seemed responsible to some degree for ones believing that 1975 was the end. A comment from the Watchtower of March 15 1980 pgs 17-18 helps us keep this in perspective:
5 In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.
6 In its issue of July 15, 1976, The Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: “If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises.” In saying “anyone,” The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah’s Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date. But, notice the counsel for us who might have been affected.
7 Nevertheless, there is no reason for us to be shaken in faith in God’s promises. Rather, as a consequence, we are all moved to make a closer examination of the Scriptures regarding this matter of a day of judgment. In doing so, we find that the important thing is not the date. What is important is our keeping ever in mind that there is such a day—and it is getting closer and it will require an accounting on the part of all of us. Peter said that Christians should rightly be “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Pet. 3:12) It is not a certain date ahead; it is day-to-day living on the part of the Christian that is important. He must not live a single day without having in mind that he is under Jehovah’s loving care and direction and must submit himself thereto, keeping also in mind that he must account for his acts.
It can be seen that the Watchtower has always been very honest when it comes to a discussion of the false hopes concerning 1975 and other dates. This candor alone helps some appreciate that the organization has One for its backer, Jehovah God. But for others, it might be noted that there is a difference between interpreting Bible prophecy and uttering new prophecies based, not on the bible, but on a personal dream, vision or discussions with God. Jehovah’s witnesses do not claim to have these “dreams, visions, or discussions” with God today as some of the Bible characters of times past have had. The Witnesses do however endeavor to interpret Bible prophecy. That is, prophecy already written under inspiration of God’s holy spirit and recorded in his holy word. Other denominations, such as Mormons, actually have “Prophets” that utter “prophecies” based on things other than God’s holy word , this is not the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses. If Jehovah’s Witnesses are to be accused of anything, rather than being called false prophets, they could be blamed for thinking the end is near, and teaching such. Actually we are taught through the pages of the Bible to keep this mental attitude.
Note Jesus own words in Matthew 24:42 as quoted below: 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming.
May we all the keep awake, with a solid foundation. Not a foundation based on a date or hour, but a foundation of faith in Christ, loyalty to his Father, Jehovah, and appreciation for where we are in the stream of time. The hour is advanced and Satan’s old system is ever closer to its ultimate demise. Let us not allow Satan to stumble any one of us. Let us also be humble knowing that any one of us could fall. We don’t know the tests that might come upon us shortly, but it certainly will be greater than the “sifting” that occurred over 1975. If that date stumbled some, might we be stumbled by something else in the future if we are not prepared now. Let us move forward then, always building on to our Christian faith so that we may come of victorious and not allowing our adversary to be the victor.