The immediate future is certain to be filled with climactic events, for this old system is nearing its complete end. Within a few years at most the final parts of Bible prophecy relative to these “last days” will undergo fulfillment, resulting in the liberation of surviving mankind into Christ’s glorious 1,000-year reign. What difficult days, but, at the same time, what grand days are just ahead!34
Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation of 1914 passes away.35
The track record of the Watchtower speaks for itself. Not one of its prophecies have come to pass. This histori-cal fact, when viewed in the light of Scripture, shatters the very foundation of the Society’s spiritual authority.
The Biblical Test of a Prophet
Jesus Christ warned his disciples to “watch out for false prophets” and also instructed them that, “by their fruit you will recognize them.”36 This truth is also empha-sized in the Law of Moses.
“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.37
This passage reveals the divine standard for judging the fruit (prophecy) of a prophet. A true prophet’s message will always come to pass; a false prophet’s predictions will never see fulfillment.
When the standard of Scripture is applied to the Watchtower, only one conclusion can be reached, the Watch-tower organization is a false prophet. Concerning the Christian’s relationship with that prophet, the command of God is clear: Do not be afraid of him.38
The Watchtower’s Explanation
When confronted with the facts, Watchtower leadership acknowledges that there have been mistakes in the past. However, these mistakes apparently do not result in the pro-phet losing his or her spiritual authority:
Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ sec- ond 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 Jeho- vah.”39
Here the Watchtower offers that it should not be branded a false prophet because it did not prophecy in the name of Jehovah. The question then arises, in what name did the Jehovah’s Witnesses prophecy? The shallowness and dis-honesty of this excuse becomes even more evident as one finds on the same page of the magazine the words, “Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the gen-eration of 1914 passes away.” In reference to this same prophecy, the May 15, 1984 edition of The Watchtower makes an even bolder declaration:
Jehovah’s prophetic word through Jesus Christ is: “This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur.” (Luke 21:32) And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfillment.40
The evidence is undeniable. The Watchtower did indeed claim that its prophecy concerning the generation of 1914 was “Jehovah’s prophetic word.”
Another attempt to downplay the issue of the Watchtower’s failed prophecies can be be found in the publi-cation, Reasoning from the Scriptures.
Under the subject of “False Prophets,” the following comments are written:
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not claim to be inspired pro- phets. They have made mistakes. Like the apostles of Jesus Christ, they have at times had some wrong expecta- tions.–Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6.41
As already noted, the Watchtower claims to be God’s “faithful and discreet slave,” entrusted with handling all the interests of the Master. It is God’s sole channel of communication. The leadership occupies a position “similar to that of Paul and his colaborers.” Concerning the prophe-tic activity of the Watchtower, “Jehovah is the one behind all of it.” Reasoning of this kind differs little from an open claim to divine inspiration. It is simply a matter of semantics.
The Watchtower leadership, it would appear, wants to lay claim to the authority of a prophet while avoiding the responsibilities that go along with that prophetic office. Once again, there is a hopeless contradiction in the reasoning of the organization. If the leadership claims to be led by the Spirit of God, it has no right to appeal to human fallibility as an excuse–the teaching has its source in God who, by nature, can do no wrong. On the other hand, if the leadership does offer human fallibility as an excuse for failed prophecy, it has no legal grounds for claiming divine authority. Only those who willingly admit from the start that the source of their teaching is human reasoning have the right to ask forgiveness for human error. For those who have claimed divine authority and then found themselves in error, there is only one course of action, repentance. This involves not only an admittance of guilt, but a complete discontinuation of all prophetic activity. To claim divine authority and then fall back on the excuse that “humans make mistakes” is nothing more than a clever form of deceptive reasoning.
The Watchtower appeal to the “wrong expectations” of the Apostles is more of the same. A careful reading of the passage in Acts chapter one will reveal that the disciples did indeed expect that Jesus might soon restore the kingdom to Israel. However, there is no record that the disciples actually taught or prophecied this in public as a message from God. They simply queried Jesus about the matter, and he corrected their misunderstanding. No comparison can be made between them and the Watchtower leadership. Luke 19:11 is also offered as scriptural support, but this verse is a reference to the crowd that was following Jesus–obviously not a prophetic group claiming divine guidance and authori-ty.42
Lies, Deception, and Cover-ups
Watchtower doctrine consistently expounds the virtue of honesty. Jehovah’s Witnesses are to be completely honest in all of their business dealings.43 Lying is said to be “against the laws for Christians.”44 Jehovah God “hates a false tongue.”45 Concerning the “faithful and discreet slaves,” The Watchtower states that, “they will do no unrighteousness, nor speak a lie, nor will there be found in their mouths a tricky tongue.”46
While setting forth lofty and scriptural principles, however, the Watchtower falls far short in practice. The organization has a proven record of deliberately distorting the truth, misquoting scholarly authorities, and telling outright lies.
Concerning the Second Coming of Christ
One central doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses deals with the invisible return of Jesus Christ in 1914. Accord-ing to Watchtower teaching, Christ did not return to the earth in a literal sense but, as king of God’s heavenly gov-ernment, began in 1914 to “take kingdom power toward this earth and turn his attention to it.”47 The organization is said to have maintained a consistent position on this doc-trine:
The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. Events since that year testify to Jesus’ invisible pres- ence.48
The Watchtower has been published since 1879. The organization is therefore claiming here that the magazine has consistently taught from 1879 to the present that Jesus Christ “returned” in 1914. This is a blatant falsehood, as the following quotes from The Watchtower clearly indicate.
In line with the same chronology the Scriptures teach us that there will be a time for the parousia, or presence of the Lord. That time, as far as we are able to calcu- late, began in 1874.49
The Scriptures show that the second presence [of the Lord] was due in 1874. . . . This proof shows that the Lord has been present since 1874.50
Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874.51
Charles Russell, founder of the Watchtower organiza-tion, was convinced that Jesus Christ had returned in 1874. His doctrinal position was also supported by his successor, Joseph Rutherford. It was not until 1943 that the date for Christ’s “presence” was moved up to 1914.52
Concerning World War II and Armageddon
As has already been demonstrated, the Watchtower’s record of prophecy includes predictions related to World War II. By September of 1941, the organization was already making references to “the remaining months before Armaged-don.”53 The near future was hastening to bring to the German people the battle of Armageddon.54
These prophecies proved to be an embarrassment to the Watchtower. Twenty-seven years later, the organization’s leadership boldly denied that the prophecies ever existed:
During World War I God’s people expected it to lead directly into Armageddon, but Jehovah prevented such a climax at that time. We didn’t succumb to such an expectation during World War II.55
Any examination of Watchtower literature published during the Second World War will show that the organization made repeated references to Armageddon. The statement that, “We didn’t succumb to such an expectation during World War II” could not be farther from the truth.
Concerning Johannes Greber
For a period of fourteen years (1962-1976), the Watchtower Society frequently quoted from a translation of the New Testament by Johannes Greber. Greber was a Catholic priest who had become heavily involved in spiritism. In the foreword to his translation, he unashamedly admits that his translation was done with the help of the “spirit world.” The Watchtower quoted from Greber’s translation as a source of support for the New World Translation’s rendering of John 1:1 and other passages.56
Numerous individuals inside and outside the organi-zation began to query the Watchtower about its policy of quoting from a spiritist’s translation of the Bible while at the same time condemning spiritism. Quotes from Greber’s translation began to disappear from the pages of Watchtower literature. Finally, in April of 1983, the organization addressed the question of, “Why, in recent years, has The Watchtower not made use of the translation by the former Catholic priest, Johannes Greber?”57
This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on “God’s Spirit World” to clar- ify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: “His wife, a medium of God’s Spiritworld was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.” The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)58
The Watchtower makes a concerted attempt to avoid responsibility for this contradiction by explaining that it had only recently discovered Greber’s spiritistic connec-tions. The organization had been acting in ignorance, and, once the facts were known, appropriate corrections were made in organizational policy. This, however, is a deliberate distortion of the truth. The Watchtower had knowledge of Greber’s spiritism from as early as 1956, as the following quote from the February 15, 1956 edition of The Watchtower clearly shows:
Says Johannes Greber in the introduction of his transla- tion of The New Testament, copyrighted in 1937: “I myself was a Catholic priest, and until I was forty- eight years old had never as much as believed in the possibility of communicating with the world of God’s spirits. The day came, however, when I involuntarily took my first step toward such communication, and expe- rienced things that shook me to the depths of my soul.”
. . . . In the Foreword of his afore-mentioned book ex- priest Greber says: “The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible.” Under this impression Greber endeavors to make his New Testament translation read very spiritualistic. . . . Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his trans- lation.59
Deliberately Misquoting Authorities
Watchtower publications frequently quote authorities to undergird organizational doctrine or policy. Periodicals and scholarly works from the field of science, medicine, religion, psychology, etc. are cited to make the Watchtower position on any given subject look reasonable. The Society is apparently aware that, in the process of doing this, cer-tain common sense principles must be followed to ensure that the writer or speaker is not misrepresented:
Be very careful to be accurate in all statements you make. Use evidence honestly. In quotations, do not twist the meaning of a writer or speaker or use partial quotations to give a different thought than the person intended. Also of you use statistics, use them pro- perly. Statistics can often be used to give a distorted picture.60
In actual practice, however, the Watchtower has con-sistently ignored these fundamental rules and deliberately distorted the words of numerous scholarly authorities. Taking quotations out of context, they have made them a pretext for error, as the following examples will show.
Current Watchtower doctrine states that since 1914 mankind has entered the “time of the end,” and that from that date the signs of Jesus’ Second Coming (wars, famines, earthquakes, plagues, etc.) have increased in number and intensity. Watchtower writers do not hestitate to utilize any figures or quotes that would appear to support their theory. In the May 15, 1983 Watchtower magazine, evidence is brought forward to prove that there has been a signifi-cant increase in earthquake activity since 1914.
Some seismologists believe that the earth is now in an active earthquake period. For example, Professor Keiiti Aki of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology speaks of “the apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years,” though stating that the period from 1500 through 1700 was as active.61
This quote is taken from a letter that Professor Aki wrote to the Watchtower Society in response to its inquiry about earthquakes. It would appear that Professor Aki is supportive of the Watchtower position, but when read in con-text, it becomes obvious that his words have been distorted. The apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years is, in all probability, due to the improved recording of earth- quakes and the increased vulnerability of human society to earthquake damage.62
In his letter to the Watchtower Society, Professor Aki did not indicate that there had been a real or actual increase in earthquake activity during the past one hundred years. He refers to an apparent increase. In other words, some are convinced that seismic activity has intensified, operating under a false assumption not based on factual evidence. This false assumption stems from an incorrect interpretation of data that has become available since the invention of the seismograph in the late 19th century. The seismograph made possible the recording of even the smallest earthquakes, leading certain individuals to reason incor-rectly that there has been an increase in seismic activity. The Watchtower conveniently ignores this vital bit of infor-mation in Professor Aki’s letter.
In 1989 the Watchtower Society published a booklet entitled Should You Believe in the Trinity? This 32-page publication argues that the Trinity is an apostate doctrine inspired by the devil and resulting from the influence of paganism on Christianity. While presenting Watchtower argu-ments against the doctrine of the Trinity, the publication also quotes from over one hundred sources, including ency-clopedias, historical works, and Bible dictionaries and commentaries by Protestant scholars. The booklet initially focuses on the so-called confusion among Christians regard- ing Trinitarian teaching, “This confusion is widespread. The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be ‘beyond the grasp of human reason.'”63
At first glance, it would appear that the author of the article in The Encyclopedia Americana agrees with the conclusions of the Watchtower. However, the Watchtower has again omitted key words to convey an idea which the author never intended.
It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formula- tions of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind.64
The same deceptive technique is employed as the Watchtower quotes from The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: “The New Encyclopaedia Britannica observes: ‘Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament.”65 This quote is offered as proof of the unscriptural nature of the doctrine of the Trinity. The article, however, when read in context, communicates an entirely different thought:
Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ and of the presence and power of God among them– i.e., the Holy Spirit, whose coming was connected with the celebration of the Pentecost. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were associated in such New Testament pas- sages as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19); and in the apostolic benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fel- lowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (II Cor. 13:14). Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.66
The Watchtower Society is obviously guilty of delib-erately falsifying information.67 This is done in order to disprove a teaching that is allegedly false.
The Scriptures consistently condemn all forms of falsehood. Jesus Christ plainly declared that the source of all lies is Satan.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native lan- guage, for he is a liar and the father of lies.68 The fruit borne by the Watchtower speaks for itself. There is no logical basis for claiming that the organization is led by the God of the Bible; rather, it must be concluded that the Watchtower Society’s source of power and inspira-tion is the “god of this age.”69