False Prophecy and Mistaken Interpretation of Scripture
At this point you may be thinking, "It looks like the Bible teaches that I need to be born again, but I have trusted the Watchtower organization which teaches something entirely different. Could its leaders be wrong?"
Do religious leaders make mistakes in interpreting and teaching the Scriptures? Jehovah's Witnesses have often pointed out unmistakable evidence that many who are not Jehovah's Witnesses do make such mistakes. They have even admitted that they too make mistakes. What then should a person who wants to follow God do? Pastor Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, suggested a test to determine which prophets we should not follow:
"Jehovah, the God of the true prophets, will put all false prophets to shame either by not fulfilling the false prediction of such self-assuming prophets or by having His own prophecies fulfilled in a way opposite to that predicted by the false prophets. False prophets will try to hide their reason for feeling shame by denying who they really are."1
Pastor Russell said more than once that God would put the false prophets to shame by not fulfilling their predictions. Here are almost the same words from another of his books:
"Jehovah… will put all false prophets to shame either by not fulfilling the false prediction of such self-assuming prophets or by having His own prophecies fulfilled in a way opposite to that predicted by the false prophets."2
The founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses said we would be able to tell who the false prophets were because their prophecies would not come true. Do you believe him?
A later Watchtower book also lays forth several ways of distinguishing true prophets from false ones:
"The three essentials for establishing the credentials of a true prophet, as given through Moses, were: The true prophet would speak in Jehovah's name; the things foretold would come to pass (Deut. 18:20-22); and his prophesying must promote true worship."3
Turning to this passage in Deuteronomy you will notice that the Scriptural emphasis is on the second of these essentials, that of the things foretold coming to pass. The passage states that if a prophecy does not come true, the person speaking is a false, and not a true, prophet.
Since Pastor Russell and the other Watchtower Society leaders made many prophecies of things that were to happen on specific dates which have now passed, we should do as they said and see if God fulfilled their prophecies. You have nothing to fear if you obey these Watchtower leaders in this Biblical test that they propose. If they check out as true prophets, any doubts you may have had will be laid to rest. If they don't, the sooner you find out the better. If they don't, remember also the last part of the test in our first quote from Pastor Russell. "False prophets will try to hide their reason for feeling shame by denying who they really are." Watch for present day denials that these were intended as prophecies. Watch for attempts to switch something that did happen for the event that was prophesied so people won't notice the failure.
The majority of the teachings the Jehovah's Witnesses still follow today were developed by men who were making predictions complete with dates. These prophecies were made at the same time they were developing Jehovah's Witness doctrine. Since these dates have already passed, they provide an unusual opportunity to find out how accurate these men were in interpreting the Scriptures. Were they always right? Were they ever right? You can use their tests to decide for yourself!
The Bible commends the church in Berea because the people of that church, "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). This test is slightly different than the others we have considered. Here the Bible approves the actions of people who were, "examining the Scriptures daily," to see if what the apostle Paul himself taught them agreed with the Bible (See also Psalm 1, 1 John 4:1).
Satan will not want you to make this Biblical test because, "He is a liar and the father of the lie." He may try to make you feel uncomfortable about examining the Scriptures to see for yourself if what you have been taught is true, but listen to God and not to him.
Following this paragraph are quotes from books by Pastor Russell, Judge Rutherford and others who established the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Most of the predictions of these men were based on their interpretations of the Scriptures. They give actual dates and tell what was to happen when the dates came. The dates are now passed, and these prophecies were either true or false. You can see whether or not their interpretations of the Scriptures can be trusted.
Pastor Russell declared the millennium to have come in 1872, but when time had passed, it became obvious that the millennium had not come in 1872, and later Watchtower publications predicted that it would come in 1975. Was one of these dates right?
"In this chapter we present the Bible evidence which indicates that six thousand years from the creation of Adam were complete with A.D. 1872; and hence that, since 1872 A. D., we are chronologically entered upon the seventh thousand or the Millennium-the forepart of which, the "Day of the Lord," the "day of trouble," is to witness the breaking into pieces of the kingdoms of this world and the establishment of the Kingdom of God under the whole heavens."4
It eventually became obvious that the millennium had not really come in 1872, so this date was changed to 1975.
"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 in the fall of 1975 C.E."5
Who was right, Pastor Russell who said the millennium had come in 1872, or the later leaders who predicted 1975? The seventh thousand years could not start in 1975 if they had already started in 1872, over 100 years earlier.
1975 passed and with it the hope of many Jehovah's Witnesses who had believed the prophecy. What do you think? Is the battle of Armageddon over? Has Satan been bound? Are you in the millennium now, or were they wrong both times?
Now that we have compared the statements about 1872 and 1975, we will examine the rest of the dates in chronological order starting with 1874.
Pastor Russell stated: "The second coming of the Lord, therefore began in 1874." This was two years after the date he had given for the beginning of the millennium.
"The second coming of the Lord therefore began in 1874; and that date and the years 1914 to 1918 are specially marked dates with reference to his coming."6
This was considered important and was repeated in several ways in a number of books.
There were no tangible evidences of Christ having come in 1874, but Pastor Russell believed it anyway:
"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."8
Since God's word clearly describes Christ's second coming, we can compare what it says with the happenings of the year 1874 and following to find out whether the Lord actually came then or not. Here is the Bible's description of the second coming of Jesus Christ:
Did any of these things actually happen in 1872, 1874, 1914, 1918, or even in 1975? The Scriptures are clear. There will be no doubt when Christ comes again! His coming will be visible to all and will attract attention.
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:23-27, 30). See also Luke 17:23-24.
Pastor Russell's explanation of an invisible coming that leaves no evidence is just what the Bible says not to believe. He has put us in a difficult position. We find ourselves commanded by God not to believe him!
(When this did not happen in 1914, the date was changed to 1915.)
As you read the quotes of these prophecies, note that these were prophecies of the end of a war which would replace the governments of men with the government of God, and not predictions of the First World War which began in 1914, and ended in 1918 without having replaced the world's governments with God's government. What actually did happen in 1914, in spite of its importance, seems to have been entirely unforeseen by the Watchtower prophets. Since something important did happen in 1914, people today sometimes try to infer that the prophecy was fulfilled. At the time, however, the Watchtower leadership did not promote that interpretation.
On the contrary, they changed the date to 1915, showing that they understood that the things prophesied for 1914 had not happened. The Watchtower publications made clear the fact that the 1914 prophecies were wrong. Notice both that what was to happen did not, and that the date changes from 1914 to 1915 in different editions of the same book.
1909 edition: "True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved;"
1914 passed and the Watchtower association had to deal with the fact that it had brought neither "the final end of the kingdoms of this world," nor "the full establishment of the kingdom of God." In the 1915 edition, therefore, the date was changed from 1914 to 1915, but with no better luck. I quote here from the 1919 reprint of the 1915 edition which admits in the introduction, "…we drew a false conclusion, however, not authorized by the Word of the Lord."
"The Watch Tower, and its companion publications of the Society, for forty years emphasized the fact that 1914 would witness the establishment of God's kingdom and the complete glorification of the church. During that period of forty years God's people on earth were carrying on a witness work, which work was foreshadowed by Elijah and John the Baptist. All of the Lord's people looked forward to 1914 with joyful expectation. When that time came and passed there was much disappointment, chagrin and mourning, and the Lord's people were greatly in reproach. They were ridiculed by the clergy and their allies in particular, and pointed to with scorn, because they had said so much about 1914, and what would come to pass, and their 'prophecies' had not been fulfilled."11
Sometimes when their prophesies proved to be false, as in the quote above, later Watchtower publications admitted it. Other times, as in the quote which follows, they tried to escape the blame, inferring that the followers rather than the leaders had made the mistake.
"Many of such had been looking for the Lord to come and take them to heaven, and had particularly fixed the year 1914 as when this should be done. The year 1914 was a marked date; but these had merely contemplated something to happen which did not come to pass."12
1872 Beginning of the millennium. Wrong! Because the millennium did not start in 1872, later Watchtower publications changed the date to 1975, another date in which it did not happen.
The people who made these false prophecies claimed that they had based most of them on Scripture. Their obvious errors in these prophecies included dates which can easily be checked. When we check these dates, it is clear that the prophecies did not come to pass because they did not interpret the Scriptures correctly.
Look out! The interpretations of these same people are the basis for almost all of the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Since they were wrong where they could be put to the test, why should you believe what they teach in areas that you can't check as easily?
I once helped a blind man get an operation that gave him sight. When we heard of a doctor who performed a new operation that might help his kind of blindness, his first move was to go to a meeting of blind people and ask them about this doctor's record as a surgeon. Everyone he found that this man had operated on was still blind! He then asked if there were other doctors who also performed this new operation and found that there was one who was an expert. This surgeon had been successful in every case in which he could be checked. My friend came back to me with this information. If you were I, which doctor would you have taken him to?
Will you follow doctors of religion who were wrong wherever you could put them to the test?
Did the ability of the Watchtower prophets to predict dates improve from here on? No, but our purpose in this investigation was to see if the people who established the Watchtower doctrines were reliable in their interpretation of Scripture. After 1915, most of the Watchtower doctrines had already been established, so to save space we will treat the rest of the prophetic dates more briefly.
"However, suddenly, there came an end to World War I. It did not lead on, as Bible students expected, into world revolution and anarchy or the battle of Armageddon. And the sincere worshippers of Jehovah, who were in the new covenant with him through his Mediator Jesus Christ, found themselves still in the flesh on the earth."14
"And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy."15
"Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old…"16
(Also 1914 and 1918)
"God's faithful people on the earth emphasized the importance of the dates 1914 and 1918 and 1925. They had much to say about these dates and what would come to pass, but all they predicted did not come to pass."19
"At San Diego, California, there is a small piece of land, on which, in the year 1929, there was built a house, which is called and known as Beth-Sarim. The Hebrew words Beth Sarim mean "House of the Princes"; and the purpose of acquiring that property and building the house was that there might be some tangible proof that there are those on earth today who fully believe God and Christ Jesus and in His kingdom, and who believe that the faithful men of old will soon be resurrected by the Lord, be back on earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth. The occupation of the house by the princes was to "be a confirmation of the faith and hope that induced the building of Beth-Sarim."20
When it became obvious that the prediction would not be fulfilled, the house became an embarrassing monument to a false prophecy. It was sold in 1948!
The Prophecy of the Overthrow of Christendom Was Wrong. The Watchtower said:
"They had preached that in an early time God would overthrow 'Christendom'. Many had emphasized the year 1925 as the date, and then when that date did not materialize the date was moved up to 1932. Again, 1932 came and 'Christendom' was not destroyed…"21
Predicting the beginning of the millennium for 1975 made it obvious that the Watchtower leadership no longer considered valid the statement that the millennium had come in 1872. The new date disproved the old. Because of this, I have placed the quotes of the 1975 prophecies right after those for 1872 to make it easier to compare the two. You may turn back to 1872 and read them there (p. 24-25).
False Prophecies Show Inability to Interpret Scripture. Having seen the false prophecies of the Watchtower publications for yourself, you realize that the people who formed Jehovah's Witness doctrine have made serious mistakes in their interpretations of Scripture. You know that Pastor Russell, who founded the Jehovah's Witnesses and established many of the doctrines, published prophecies complete with dates. You have seen quotes from his books, and know that the prophecies were wrong. Since they were usually based on his interpretations of Scripture, you know that his interpretations were not reliable. He even admitted making doctrinal mistakes.
Judge Rutherford who followed Pastor Russell in establishing the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses, also wrote predictions complete with dates based on his interpretations of Scripture. These also check out wrong. Speaking of this after the fact, the Watchtower said,
"Things published were not perfect in the days of Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society; nor were they perfect in the days of J. F. Rutherford, the succeeding president. The increasing light on God's Word as well as the facts of history have repeatedly required that adjustments of one kind or another be made down to the very present time."22
Therefore, when one of these men's followers suggests that you should not read the Bible by itself, apart from their interpretations, or that you should not read explanations other than those of the Watchtower Society, don't give in to such bad advice. The person who made the suggestion will not take your punishment on himself if your life is ruined by false doctrine. You are responsible for your own decisions and your own actions. The Bible teaches you to check out what others tell you (Acts 17:11). Why would you want to blindly entrust the salvation of your soul to men who were so clearly wrong in the points in which they could be easily checked? You have God's word in your hand and are responsible to see for yourself what He is teaching!
Now that you understand the necessity of independent Bible study, you may want to look up the Scriptures listed in chapter one about how to enter God's kingdom. Find them in your Bible and read them all by themselves, apart from my interpretation or that of anyone else. It is particularly important to understand what the Bible teaches about your salvation.
1872 Beginning of the millennium. Wrong! Watchtower publications later changed the date to 1975, another date in which it did not happen.
1874 Christ's second coming. Nothing happened. The Bible says His second coming will be seen by all.
1914 All world governments to be overthrown. God will glorify His people and govern the world.
1915 When man's governments were not replaced by God's in 1914, the date was changed to 1915. The Watchtower Society later admitted these prophecies "had not been fulfilled."
1918 End of Gentile times, the churches to be destroyed.
1920 The mountains, republics, and kingdoms were to disappear.
1925 The kingdom was to be established in Palestine. Faithful men of the Old Testament were to return. It was later admitted that this and the 1918 prediction were wrong.
1929 A house was built for the return of the Old Testament faithful. It was sold in 1948 because they did not return.
1932 The Watchtower stated that the date for the overthrow of Christendom had been moved up from 1925 (previously 1918) to 1932 and that the overthrow did not happen in 1932 either.
1975 Since the Millennium had not begun in 1872, the date was changed to 1975. Again nothing happened.
Chapter three will let you see from the Bible alone where the saved go after death. If you have been following the views of men who say there is no way you can get into heaven, you will find the Bible's teaching a very pleasant surprise.