Part 4 – Was our organization chosen in 1919?
In the fourth and final installment of my “Under The Microscope” series, I will examine the concept that Christ selected the Watch Tower Society to represent the earthly part of God’s organization some time between 1918 and 1919. This is the primary reason given in the Society’s literature as to why the Slave Class should be viewed as God’s channel of communication with mankind.
There are three lesser lines of reasoning for reaching this conclusion, and these have already been discussed at length in the following articles. If you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to read these articles and reach your own conclusions on the information presented:
- The perceived wondrous expansion of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide
- The love that Jehovah’s Witnesses have among themselves (John 13:35)
- The claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones preaching the good news worldwide (Matt 24:14)
Many of you reading this web page will be zealous Jehovah’s Witnesses who want to support the “Slave Class” in reaching the entire earth with the message of good news from the bible. Your motives and enthusiasm are to be commended, particularly since you view your primary objective as that of helping others. However, it would be wise for you to take a moment to analyze your beliefs, if only to ensure that you are worshipping God with “truth”. (John 4:23-24) After all, just imagine for a moment that it could be proven beyond doubt that this isn’t “the Truth” after all, and all your time, efforts and enthusiasm are being misappropriated and channeled to support an entirely human organization. “Impossible!”, you might say. But if that were the case, how would you come to know the real truth without tracing all things with accuracy and continually “testing whether you are in the faith”? (Luke 1:3; 2 Cor. 13:5)
Besides, is it right that we constantly ask others whom we meet on our public ministry to scrutinize their own beliefs without first scrutinizing our own? Does not the real truth always stand up to close scrutiny, however invasive such scrutiny might be? It is with these questions in mind that I urge you to read this article, and give the contents thoughtful consideration. It may be that, after reading, you reach the conclusion that Jehovah’s Witnesses and their “Slave Class” could not possibly have been chosen by Christ in 1919 after all. On the other hand, you may still consider this teaching to be true. Regardless, if what we have is really “the Truth”, then there can be no harm in reaffirming this for ourselves by exploring all possible objections that others might raise with us.
Why is 1919 so important?
It is worth reminding ourselves briefly of what the Society actually claims happened between 1918 and 1919. According to their interpretation of bible prophecy, in 1918 Christ fulfilled Malachi 3:1 by coming to inspect Jehovah’s “spiritual temple”, which is said to represent the anointed followers of Christ. After doing this, it is said that in 1919 he chose the Bible Students as his “Slave Class” based on the “spiritual food” they were distributing at that time. This is well reflected in the following quote from a 2007 magazine article:
“‘On arriving’ to inspect the ‘slave’ in 1918, Christ found a spirit-anointed remnant of faithful disciples who since 1879 had been using this journal [the Watchtower] and other Bible-based publications to provide spiritual ‘food at the proper time.’ He acknowledged them as his collective instrument, or ‘slave,’ and in 1919 entrusted them with the management of all his earthly belongings.” (The Watchtower 2007 4/1 p. 22)
It is interesting to note the emphasis that is placed here on the literature being circulated by the Bible Students prior to Christ’s arrival. This is because the principal duty of the “Slave Class” according to Matthew 24:45 is that they should give Christ’s domestics (or followers) “their food at the proper time”. Logically, therefore, if Christ were to “inspect” his disciples in 1918 as to their suitability to fill this special role, it would be on the basis of the “spiritual food” they were distributing at that time. This is precisely what the Society frequently infers in its publications, although for some reason, it never seems to explain things quite this clearly.
The above quote refers to the Watchtower magazine and “other Bible-based publications” being used as a vehicle for “spiritual food” by the “Slave Class” at the time of Christ’s inspection. One publication in significant circulation by the Bible Students at that time was the book The Finished Mystery, which was first published in 1917 (only a year before Christ’s supposed inspection). This book, often referred to in the “Revelation Climax” book, was hailed as the posthumous work of Charles Taze Russell, but in reality it was written by Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher after these two men were assigned to the task by the Watch Tower president and two other members of the board of directors. It was the seventh and final volume of a widely distributed series of books entitled Studies In The Scriptures.
Here’s what one Watchtower article had to say about the distribution of The Finished Mystery in particular during that time:
“In the latter half of 1917 the faithful forefront preachers of the ‘discreet slave’ class energetically took up distribution of The Finished Mystery, for within seven months the Society’s outside printers were busy on the 850,000 edition. ‘The sale of the Seventh Volume is unparalleled by the sale of any other book known, in the same length of time, excepting the Bible.’” (The Watchtower 1955 4/1 p. 206)
It is therefore safe to say that The Finished Mystery was being distributed extensively by the time Christ ostensibly arrived to inspect anointed Christians in 1918. As one of the primary sources of “spiritual food” being distributed to the “domestics” at that time, it is inconceivable that Christ would have neglected to examine the contents of this book during such an inspection. Having thus read it, it is similarly difficult to imagine that he would have looked on the book favorably, since it contained some astoundingly flawed interpretations of scripture that were fanciful at best, and disturbingly misleading at worst.
At this point, I must recognize that most people reading this article will NOT have read The Finished Mystery, either in whole or in part. For the most part, this is because the Society no longer publishes the work, and only occasionally refers to it in modern publications. It should also be recognized that this book, along with other older literature and magazines, is frequently considered as “old light” and therefore not worthy of our attention.
I will explain later in this article why the very idea of “old” and “new” light runs contrary to the scriptures, but for the time being, let’s remind ourselves of the significance of The Finished Mystery. This was the principal book being distributed by the Bible Students at the time of Christ’s inspection in 1918, and it was on the basis of the contents of this and other publications that the Society was chosen in 1919 to represent Christ as his “Slave Class”. Therefore, irrespective of whether it was “new light” or “old light”, we can reasonably assert that Christ should have been able to find at least a decent portion of wisdom and truth befitting of “spiritual food” in the words he would have read.
For the purpose of enlightening readers who have not yet had opportunity to examine The Finished Mystery, I have prepared a 2-page PDF that goes through some “highlights” of the book. You are invited to download the PDF, either in A4 or letter format, and check the references provided against the book itself to ensure that I have represented everything accurately. The PDF is designed to be printed ‘double-sided’, so that it can be folded and inserted into publications such as the Revelation Climax book.
Below are just a few of the more striking observations from The Finished Mystery. You are encouraged to look up the pages in the book yourself to see that I am not exaggerating.
Charles Taze Russell was the “faithful and wise servant” (or “faithful and discreet slave”) and he was also the “seventh angel” mentioned in the book of Revelation. (pp.4-6, 53, 169)
- The book of Ezekiel prophesied that God would separate Russell from his wife, Maria, and make her “dead” in his eyes. (pp.483-484)
- Russell continued to supervise the harvest work, even after his death. (pp.144, 256)
- Ezekiel 33:22 foretold Russell speaking from beyond the grave by means of The Finished Mystery. (p.530)
- The Finished Mystery was “divinely provided” to humanity, and is the “incense burner” referred to in Revelation 8:5. (p.145)
- Revelation 14:20 predicted the precise traveling distance between where The Finished Mystery was written, and where it was printed. (p.230)
- The “loud voice” in Revelation 14:18 was a “disappointed cry” because Russell did not have time to complete The Finished Mystery himself. (p.227)
- The “behemoth” of Job 40 is the stationary steam engine, and the “leviathan” of Job 41 is the steam locomotive. (pp.84-85)
- The rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2 is the “Bishop of Rome” who is the “personal representative of Satan”. (p.106)
- Michael and his angels, as described in Revelation 12, are the Pope and his bishops. (p.188)
- The “voice out of heaven” in Revelation 18:4 is the voice of the Watch Tower Society. (p.276)
- Revelation 18:1 describes the glory of Christ causing enlightenment for the world from 1874 onwards, resulting in a lengthy list of inventions and discoveries including: barbed wire, cash registers, typewriters and vacuum cleaners. (p. 273)
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. The above assertions, all of which are taken from the pages of The Finished Mystery, are both wildly speculative and embarrassingly spurious. I don’t believe I am being unkind in dismissing the book as complete absurdity from beginning to end. Indeed, the whole process of reading The Finished Mystery, or even simply leafing through its pages, can be quite a mentally and emotionally draining experience. For a born and raised Jehovah’s Witness like myself, it is comparable to walking in on a respected elderly relative in an embarrassing moment of indignity, such is the unbridled self-indulgence with which the writers give free rein to their wildest imaginings.
There is also scarcely a page where lavish praise is not heaped on the then recently departed Charles Taze Russell, who is heralded as “the most prolific writer of bible truth that ever lived” (p.65) and “a true priest of the Almighty” (p.368). Without meaning any disrespect, at times it is difficult to determine whom the writers are worshipping more – God or Russell.
Despite all this, it is astonishing to note the voracity with which modern Watchtower publications defend this publication as evidence of Christ’s direction of the organization and/or favoring of it. The 1988 “Revelation Climax” book is an excellent example. The writers of Revelation – Its Grand Climax At Hand herald The Finished Mystery as “a powerful commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel” (see page 165) and attribute it with playing a key role in fulfilling the prophecy of the “Two Witnesses” spoken of in Revelation 11. Note the following quote, taken from a box on page 208:
“Thus, rather than following the example of faithful Peter, these and other popes were an evil influence. They allowed bloodguilt and spiritual and physical fornication, as well as a Jezebel influence, to corrupt the church they ruled. (James 4:4) In 1917 the Bible Students’ book The Finished Mystery set out many of these facts in stark detail. This was one way that the Bible Students in those days ‘struck the earth with every sort of plague.’—Revelation 11:6; 14:8; 17:1, 2, 5.” (Revelation – Its Grand Climax At Hand!, box on page 208)
It is safe to say that the writers of the “Revelation Climax” book would have felt comfortable describing The Finished Mystery as a book of “facts” given that they knew the vast majority of readers would never have the opportunity to read the work for themselves. Despite endorsing the book and awarding it a prominent role in the fulfillment of bible prophecy, it is interesting that even the “Revelation Climax” book struggles to be consistently generous in its adulation of the work…
“After his [Russell’s] death in 1916, many of his writings were collected and published in a book entitled The Finished Mystery. In time, though, this book proved to be unsatisfactory as an explanation of Revelation.” (Revelation – Its Grand Climax At Hand!, page 159)
It is difficult to comprehend how the writers of the “Revelation Climax” book could fail to see the irony in their assertions. A book that “proved to be unsatisfactory” as an explanation of the bible book of Revelation is simultaneously said to have fulfilled it! It is also noteworthy that, despite referring to The Finished Mystery as “powerful”, “fearless”, “polemic” and even “controversial”* in its publications down through the years, the Watch Tower Society nearly always shies away from specifically endorsing or repeating its actual contents in print. Rather, it hails the brazenness and audacity with which the book condemned the leaders of other Christian faiths of the period. The book is thus indulged as though it were a spoilt and unruly child – its indiscretions overlooked, but its energy and exuberance praised.
The publications give the impression that The Finished Mystery’s provocative nature alone gave sufficient grounds for it to play a role in the outworking of God’s purpose. However, surely Christ would have no interest whatsoever in how controversial or opinionated such publications would prove to be. Almost certainly his primary focus in inspecting “spiritual food” would be its merits in terms of accuracy and effectiveness in dispensing words of bible truth to his followers. (John 8:31-32; 14:6; 16:13) On such a criterion, The Finished Mystery falls woefully short by anyone’s standard.
Despite this, one Watchtower article goes so far as to assert that Christ actually disciplined the Society for removing pages 247-253 of the book due to government censure! The pages in question delved unashamedly into the realm of politics, criticizing the US government’s involvement in World War 1. The Society relented to external pressure, and asked the brothers to remove these pages from any existing copies. However, more recent publications have declared this to have been a sin for which Christ rebuked the organization, leading to the imprisonment of senior officials.
“Organizationally they remembered their sins, such as compromisingly cutting out pages 247-253 of The Finished Mystery, their seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures, to please would-be censors, The Watch Tower encouraging its readers to set aside May 30, 1918, as a day of prayer and supplication as requested by the American Congress on April 2 and as proclaimed by President Wilson May 11, their tendering of compliments to governments of this world, and their dabbling in nonreligious enterprises. As a body they confessed, ‘We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.’” (The Watchtower, 1955 5/1 pp. 266-267)
If Jesus had truly taken an active interest in the exploits of the Bible Students during this period, I’m fairly certain he would have applauded them for removing pages of this awful book rather than chastising them for it. In reality, by ceasing to print The Finished Mystery and failing to encourage people to read it, the modern organization has effectively torn out all of its pages in their entirety. Should Christ discipline them again for doing so?
The truth is, it is highly unlikely that Christ took any interest in this or any other publications of the Society during this period. In his book In Search of Christian Freedom, the late Raymond Franz (a former Governing Body member) provides an overview of the literature being circulated by the organization at that time, including The Finished Mystery. He summarizes quite eloquently as follows:
“A direct investigation of the publications of the Watch Tower organization in the years from 1914 to 1919 reveals none of the prudent discretion that causes a man to ‘keep his lips in check’. It would be an insult to Christ Jesus to say that he selected this organization on the basis of what it was teaching, uniquely and distinctively, as of 1919.” (Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, page 145)
Having researched The Finished Mystery and other publications from those years myself, I can wholeheartedly agree with the above words. It would indeed be an “insult” to suggest that Jesus could endorse the ideas and concepts being propounded in these publications, either doctrinally or otherwise. I have recently published an article on another website highlighting the racism that flourished in publications during the presidencies of Russell and Rutherford. These racist articles surfaced both before, during and after Christ’s supposed inspection. To suggest that Christ supported such bigoted outbursts would also be an insult, as it would imply that he sympathizes with racist ideology when in fact the bible tells us that “God is not partial”. (Acts 10:34,35)
The light gets brighter?
This brings us to a commonly voiced objection by many who will be familiar with the Society’s teachings. We are constantly informed in the publications that any errors in books or magazines from years gone by were due to the “light getting brighter”. In other words, the brothers during the days of Russell, Rutherford and Knorr were not granted full understanding of the bible or God’s purposes for them. As a result, their publications contained many errors, which render them unworthy of any serious consideration by Jehovah’s people today.
This idea brings with it a great contradiction, because although errors in the publications are freely admitted, they are still indirectly attributed to God as having been provided as “spiritual food” by his holy spirit through his earthly organization. Again, the exact relationship between God’s holy spirit and the writers of Watchtower publications seems to be rather obscured in the literature, but here is just one example of how the Society claims that God’s holy spirit takes an active role in the actual preparation of the publications, however error-strewn they may subsequently turn out to be:
“If we are sorely tried and do not know what to pray for, ‘the spirit joins in with help for our weakness, pleading for us with groanings unuttered.’ God answers such prayers. (Romans 8:26, 27) Let us pray for holy spirit and allow it to produce in us those of its fruits particularly needed to face a certain trial. (Luke 11:13) We will also increase our joy if we prayerfully and diligently study God’s spirit-inspired Word and Christian publications prepared under the spirit’s guidance.” (The Watchtower, 1992 3/15 pp. 21-22)
Thus, the bible is “spirit-inspired”, whereas the Watchtower publications are said to be prepared “under the spirit’s guidance”. Try as hard as I may, I have yet to find a single Watchtower article that satisfactorily explains the difference between “spirit-inspired” and “spirit-guided”. To my mind, both terms mean one and the same thing. Either way, it is clear from the above quote that the Society claims guidance from God’s holy spirit as playing a key role in the preparation of Watchtower publications. If this is the case, why would God deliberately “guide” the planting of erroneous thoughts and teachings in material intended for his worshippers?
The Society frequently uses three scriptures to impress upon Jehovah’s Witnesses their teaching of “increased light”. These are as follows:
“Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones. Shun it, do not pass along by it; turn aside from it, and pass along.For they do not sleep unless they do badness, and their sleep has been snatched away unless they cause someone to stumble. For they have fed themselves with the bread of wickedness, and the wine of acts of violence is what they drink. But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling.” (Proverbs 4:14-19, New World Translation)
“Consequently we have the prophetic word [made] more sure; and YOU are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in YOUR hearts. For YOU know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21, New World Translation)
“And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.”And I saw, I Daniel, and, look! there were two others standing, one on the bank here of the stream and the other on the bank there of the stream. Then one said to the man clothed with the linen, who was up above the waters of the stream: “How long will it be to the end of the wonderful things?” And I began to hear the man clothed with the linen, who was up above the waters of the stream, as he proceeded to raise his right [hand] and his left [hand] to the heavens and to swear by the One who is alive for time indefinite: “It will be for an appointed time, appointed times and a half. And as soon as there will have been a finishing of the dashing of the power of the holy people to pieces, all these things will come to their finish.” Now as for me, I heard, but I could not understand; so that I said: “O my lord, what will be the final part of these things?” And he went on to say: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of [the] end. Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” (Daniel 12:4-10, New World Translation)
Unquestionably, the scripture in Proverbs 4:18 is the most frequently used of the above three when driving home the idea of “increasing light”. However, the context of the scripture clearly shows that the “path of the righteous ones” is merely analogous of the favorable consequences enjoyed by righteous people in comparison with “wicked ones”. Bible prophecy or even “God’s word” is mentioned nowhere in this scripture. The “prophetic word” in 2 Peter 1:19 is a “lamp shining in a dark place” – it neither brightens nor dims. Daniel 12 describes the wicked ones failing to understand his prophecy, but only the “ones having insight” understanding. Indeed, according to this verse, whether or not bible prophecies are correctly understood seems to be an indicator of whether or not the one “roving about” is wicked or righteous! There is certainly no room for changes in interpretation, or going back to an original idea. You either understand, or you don’t.
The truth is, when read in their full context, none of the above three commonly used scriptures describe a scenario in which Jehovah God would use his holy spirit to knowingly and deliberately issue false information to his worshippers as a “makeweight” until true information is revealed at a later stage. This is simply not how the “God of truth” goes about doing things in the scriptures. (Psalm 31:5) Rather, when God wants his servants to know something, he tells them unequivocally and with no ambiguity or innuendo. In the case of a prophecy, for example, the words of a true prophet speaking on behalf of Jehovah are said to always come true without fail. The bible even tells us that you can identify a false prophet simply by noting whether the words he has spoken in Jehovah’s name have come true or not. (Deu. 18:20-22)
Faced with the evidence, there is therefore no scriptural reason for believing in the Society’s teaching of increasing light. Either the Society speaks as God’s representative in all things, or not at all. They must choose for themselves, as must their readers.
In reality, the “increasing light” teaching provides a convenient escape hatch whenever the Society is confronted with evidence of past teachings that are either suspect or downright misleading. It also allows the Society to change their prophetic interpretations whenever history proves the previous teachings to be false. However, wherever the “increasing light” doctrine came from, it most certainly doesn’t originate from the bible – that much is clear. The bible has simply been misquoted in a number of places in such a way as to apparently lend support to the notion. Indeed, the bible speaks clearly and unequivocally of those who speak falsely in Jehovah’s name, and its judgment of such ones is far from flattering.
What it all means
If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you have read this far in the article, you are to be commended for your bravery and thirst for real truth. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, if I could reach out and embrace you, I would do so! It is never easy facing the realization that so much of what you have learned and accepted as “truth” over the years is nothing more than human opinion. The publications and magazines of the “Slave Class” have, from the very beginning, been strewn with errors and very human ideas, including failed predictions and harsh teachings. Does this mean that the Society was wrong to “rove about” in God’s word, and offer their thoughts and ideas as to what certain scriptures might mean? Absolutely not!
Everyone is free to read the bible and publish his or her own ideas on what scriptures might mean. However, the Watch Tower Society has always gone one step further, and insisted that, as God’s sole organization on the Earth, their interpretation alone is to be considered the final word on all scriptural matters. In particular, the Governing Body has usurped the position of the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”, claiming to act as their “representative” when, in fact, none of the nearly 12,000 members of the anointed outside the world headquarters receive any contact or individual acknowledgment from the Governing Body. This is strange for the following reasons:
- It was the “faithful and discreet slave” and NOT the Governing Body who were said to have been chosen by Christ in 1919.
- The term “governing body” is found nowhere in the bible, neither does Jesus ever allude to a “governing body” as being necessary in order to represent his “Slave Class”.
- If the Governing Body was truly a “representative” of the nearly 12,000 anointed, they would at least show some interest in the identity of such ones. Instead, a recent Watchtower article said that the Governing Body has no intention of contacting such ones, and even insinuated that memorial partakers other than the individual members of the Governing Body might be insane! (see w2011 8/15 p22)
Hopefully, if you have had chance to ponder on the above information, you will reach the realization (as I have) that Christ didn’t choose the organization in 1919 after all. The Society may continue to insist that it did, but in so doing it relies on the fact that there is nobody left who is old enough to remember the events to which so much prophetic significance is attached. The publications are therefore free to ‘wax lyrical’ and embellish accounts of these events in our organization’s history to give the impression that they were of supreme importance in the outworking of God’s purposes, when in fact they were nothing of the sort.
This, coupled with the absence of tangible evidence that God is indeed blessing the growth of the organization to the extent implied by the Society leaves one with the undeniable realization that Jehovah’s Witnesses, however well-meaning, are just another human religion. They enjoy no special relationship with God. Furthermore, it is unrealistic for them to aspire to such a relationship in the future while they continue to promote harsh, unloving and even life threatening teachings such as shunning, the rejection of blood transfusions, and the protection of child abusers if such ones falsely claim they are innocent.
“Where do I go from here?” you may well ask. Please let me reassure you that, contrary to what you have been led to believe, there is more to life than simply having everything you believe dictated to you by a human organization. There are many meaningful and fulfilling things you can do with your life, and there are many people in your situation who can sympathize with your dilemma and help you to break free from the Society’s influence.
Of course, everyone has different circumstances. You may not be in a situation to make a stand for what you honestly believe due to family, or other similar concerns. Each one must make his or her own decisions as to what they think is best based on individual circumstances and what they know to be true. If someone reaches the decision to remain as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for family or other reasons, then I would be the last person to criticize them for doing so. After all, I am in a similar awkward position myself.
Whatever you choose to do, please be assured that you are not alone in your doubts, and there are many others like you throughout the world that share in your struggle. Hopefully, by coming together on websites such as this, we can begin to make a difference.
*The descriptions of The Finished Mystery I allude to can be found in the following Watchtower references: w95 5/15 p21; w70 4/1 pp.200-201; w67 2/15 p108; w64 7/15 p442.
Read the books referred to for yourself (from Internet Archives):