Are Jehovah's Witnesses "False" Prophets?
Greetings to everyone,
I don't know whether to be amused or annoyed when this topic gets raised over and over again by opposers to the work of Jehovah's Witnesses.
I've made no secret that I, personally, have certain issues with the direction that the Society has taken Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as certain doctrines and practices that I feel are harming Jehovah's Witnesses in their faith. If the truth be known, this was one of the facets that I took issue with, until I gained a better perspective on the matter. And while not everyone that takes the time to read what follows, much less agree with it, it is a position that I can personally defend based on my understanding.
First of all, what exactly is a prophet?
In the most basic sense of the term, it is someone who speaks for someone else, usually someone of divine origin. A stockbroker could, in the basic sense of the term, be called a "prophet," as could a meteorologist (weatherperson).
Typically, however, it is a term applied to someone who claims or is believed to speak for someone or something of divine origin. So, it has religious connotations. It is a person that claims or is believed to speak for Almighty God.
According to webster.com , the word "prophet" finds its origin in Middle English prophete, from Old French, from Latin propheta, from Greek prophEtEs, from pro for + phanai to speak.
In defining the expression, webster.com says the following:
1 : one who utters divinely inspired revelations; specifically often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Old Testament
2 : one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially : an inspired poet
3 : one who foretells future events : PREDICTOR
4 : an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group
The first definition specifically applies to cases when the expressionProphet is given. Examples: the Prophet Elijah, the Prophet Daniel.
Based on what I've found in the Society's literature, this is not the application that has been made in referring to itself as a "prophet" of Jehovah. But, some may take issue with my saying that, so, for the moment, let's move forward in this discussion and return to Definition #1 in a few moments.
The second definition is fairly general. Someone "gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight" could be applied to "an inspired poet," according to webster.com's definition. This could appropriately be applied to the Society or Jehovah's Witnesses, but could also be applied to any other religious group that demonstrates "more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight." Some modern-day examples we could point to would be Gandhi or Mother Theresa or, in the eyes of some, Billy Graham. Especially in the case of Gandhi and Mother Theresa, these powerful individuals had a powerful affect and developed a loyal following because of that gift of "more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight." Therefore, they could properly be accredited as prophets.
The third definition is even more general. In this category of "one who foretells future events" we can place anyone, from stockbrokers, government officials, meteorologists, doctors... anyone that speaks of events that are yet future. All such ones are "prophets," as defined by webster.com and similar dictionaries.
In the fourth definition, we find that one can be a prophet if they are an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine or group. President Bush, in his speeches against terrorists the world over, is the "prophet" for Americans, as defined by webster.com and similar dictionaries. The same could be said of Saddam Hussein, who utters his pronouncements against America and its allies.
Who else has served in the role of "prophet" through the ages, specifically in the "religious" sense? Martin Luther. Calvin. John Smith. Wesley. The numerous Popes through the ages. Joseph Smith. Ellen G. White. Charles Taze Russell. J.F. Rutherford (I believe, based on the evidences, that Rutherford is the founder of Jehovah's Witnesses, not C.T. Russell).
All these names should be familiar to Christians everywhere, because the odds are that they are themselves a follower on the path set down by any one of these individuals who one or more of the definitions of prophet, and in many cases, all four of the definitions.
The question is: did any (or ALL) of these individuals make prophetic declarations that did not come to pass, although it was taught as divine Truth at the time that they uttered it? A search using Google.com or any of the other numerous internet search engines will reveal that certain proclamations were made that, over the passing of time, did not bear out.
Does this make them "false" prophets? They spoke these things on the authority of God's Word, so they were claiming that this is what God himself was saying. They, in effect, put words in God's own mouth. There is not a single exception in the above list of names.
If the zealous application of certain individuals on this board in Deuteronomy's rule or modus operandi of determining a "false" prophet is applied, then the majority of Christians across the world who have taken up the teachings of the above-named individuals are followers of "false" prophets, plain and simple.
Yet I see that there are repeated concerted accusations against Jehovah's Witnesses by these other religious groups and their adherents on the issue of "false" prophesying. Dates are cited from the Society's literature, along with the fixated expected occurence that did not bear out as anticipated, as proclaimed it would occur. Dates such as 1874, 1914, 1925, and 1975, are time and again raised up like banners by these other religious groups, along with their spite and condemnatory remarks.
All of these dates were pointed to with the full force of God's Word as their backing for established and incontrovertible fact. Then, when the date passed, the entire incident was, for all intents and purposes, swept "under the rug" by the Society, or has such a "spin" put on it that modern-day Witnesses who have not whole-heartedly researched the significance of the weight lent to these dates, will read that the date still had fulfillment in some sense.
While it is outside the scope of this specific post to address these dates, there is more than enough information--not only on the internet, but within the Society's own literature, to get a complete picture of the doctrines and beliefs at the time that these dates were offered as having basis in the Scriptures.
But, for the sake of fairness and application, let us examine the date of 1914. Opposers are correct when they say that it was 1874, not 1914, that was taught as the time that Christ assumed his rulership in the heavens and had, for all intents and purposes, returned. This teaching was never even officially changed to 1914 until about 30 years after 1914 passed--after Rutherford's death! This can be found within the pages of the Society's own publication without even resorting to the apostates' and opposers' websites.
1914 was touted as the END of the current system of things, not as the BEGINNING of the end, as it is currently taught. This, too, can be demonstrated by researching the Society's literature of that time frame. Greg Stafford, in his book Three Dissertations (currently available from http://elihubooks.com ) does a commendable job of addressing the numerous dates found within the pages of the Society's literature, and the meaning or prophetic fulfillment ascribed to them by the Society. I would recommend it to anyone that wants an objective, balanced, and fair-minded examination of this topic, as written from the perspective of one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
But do such failures in predictions constitute a designation as a "false" prophet? Active opponents of Jehovah's Witnesses declare that it is, and they currently expend tremendous amounts of energy, time and resources in getting the word out to the public.
Sadly, it all comes down to nothing more than name-calling. On the one side, you have Jehovah's Witnesses the world over pointing an accusing finger at members of "Christendom" (a derogatory name in and of itself, but its use has now extended beyond exclusive usage by Jehovah's Witnesses to describe mainstream Christianity) and saying that they're going to perish in the coming Judgment. On the other side of the issue, you have other Christians the world over pointing their finger back at Jehovah's Witnesses in accusation and saying that Jehovah's Witnesses will be the ones that are going to perish in the coming Judgment. "Christendom" is the spawn of Satan, claims Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses are the AntiChrist and false prophets, claims other Christian groups.
Neither side is exempt from the accusation of using tactics to promote their side of the argument in a way that would shame our Great Teacher, Jesus. I just happen to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses, but I would be just as ashamed as a Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran or Adventist as I am as a Witness to watch these exchanges take place.
Be that as it may, I want to return to the subject of this post: The Issue of "False" Prophets.
I can without reservation say that Jehovah's Witnesses truly believe what they preach out on the doorsteps, public streets, and other places. They must, if they are to speak the Truth which is in their heart and bear true witness to that Truth. And while this does not make them any more correct in their proclamations, from an objective viewpoint, the same could be said of other Christian groups and organizations who hold to certain teachings as though there could be no other possibility but their interpretation.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe with all their heart that they speak for and in behalf of God. They offer themselves as a living testimony of Jehovah's power in their lives. They speak what they believe the Bible's message says to them. I am strongly opposed to anyone serving Jehovah God in a faith that is based on dates and assumptions, for those dates will surely fail, for what, then, will become of that person's faith? Still, we are commissioned, as servants of Jehovah and as slaves of Christ, to speak the Good News, and every Christian the world over is under the same obligation.
We are all to act as "prophets" for our Heavenly Creator, to warn our fellowman of the coming tide of change, and to beckon them to taste of the goodness of God's Word, of His Righteousness and Justice, and to repent from dead works of the flesh--to help others to discover that Jehovah's love is both appealing and satisfying in a way that no other thing of this world can even begin to approach.
When we speak of God, we become his spokesman. He speaks through us. How we live our lives is a living testament to others who observe us in our activities, in our mannerisms, in our actions when we are not with those of like faith.
One can begin to see, then, why it is so important to carry this responsibility with a sense of respect and humility that many forget in their zeal. What we say to another may forever shape the beginnings of their faith, and prove the undoing of that faith years later, should something we uttered prove faulty. We are all predisposed to this. Jehovah's Witnesses are not unique in either the tendency or the accountability. If anything, they do bear a greater blame due to the mere fact that they go to such lengths to tell others of Jehovah and his ways. And they will be properly yet severely corrected by Jehovah when that time comes.
Finally, recall the account of Jonah. As a prophet of Jehovah, he was commissioned to go forth and say that Jehovah was going to do such-and-such. On his second journey to Nineveh, he entered the city and kept proclaiming and saying: 'Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.'" (Jonah 3:1-4)
When those 40 days passed and nothing happened, how do you think Jonah felt? As if it wasn't enough that he had to summon the courage to go forth into Nineveh AND utter a message that they would be overthrown--a message that might have got him killed for the sheer audacity of the message itself--when the time came for the event to take place, it didn't occur!
According to Jonah 4:1, Jonah was quite upset at having been made to look the fool. In fact, his emotions were so strong that he wanted to die! Rather than rejoicing that the Ninevites had changed their ways at the message, he was "hot with anger"!
Was Jonah a "false" prophet for having said something that proved to be not true? He went forth as he was told to do, to warn of destruction and death and doom. He was even given a date that this was to occur!
This should be not only a humbling example for Jehovah's Witnesses, who assign dates based on what they can discern from the Scriptures, and then preach those dates without reservation or room for failure--but to anyone who, like Jonah (and, yes, sometimes even Jehovah's Witnesses), get angry when the "wicked" do not get dealt with in the way that we've been pronouncing God's Judgments against them. Jonah 4:5-11 is a prime illustration for us today, whatever sect of Christiantity we belong to, to not desire any to perish who listen to our message, but that they find life. How Jehovah God chooses to deal with such ones is not up to us, just as it was not up to Jonah.
Rather than making it an issue of what didn't occur in 1874, 1914, 1925, or 1975, we should focus on what if it had?! Where would we have been at that point in our lives? Or our parents' lives? In our standing before Jehovah God? Or our parents' stand? How many individuals do we personally know now that might never have known of the Sovereign Lord or Jesus Christ, had the End come last year, or at the end of the Millenium, as many believed it might?
What if today is that day? Or tomorrow? Are we living our life in a way that demonstrates expectation? Of rejection of the things of this system that are due to perish? Is our faith towards the sound foundation of God's Word and in the Ransom sacrifice?
Submitted in Christian humility for your perusal,