For decades Witnesses have been taught that 1914 marked the beginning of a “short period of time” before Christ would banish Satan to the abyss at Armageddon and establish his kingdom on the Earth.
As decade after decade has passed with the promised apocalypse nowhere in sight, many Witnesses are now beginning to realize that perhaps the basis for the 1914 doctrine is not as solid as they were led to believe.
Witnesses now stand on the brink of the year 2014, which will mark 100 years since Christ supposedly took charge in the heavens – a century-long “short period of time!” In response to the disappointment already being experienced by many, Watchtower is ramping up its rhetoric with its latest November 15th magazine (click here for download).
Witnesses are being urged to “close ranks against Satan and the demons,” and elders are warned that they must follow the Society’s instructions “whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”
“Show a waiting attitude”
An article entitled “How Can We Maintain a Waiting Attitude?” stirs the emotions on page 10 of the new magazine with a rather psychedelic picture of an angel “holding back the destructive winds of the great tribulation.” The first two paragraphs warn the reader against being impatient.
“Satan knows that he has only ‘a short period of time.’ (Rev. 12:12) However, that ‘period of time’ has gone on for decades, and some may feel that the last days have lasted a long time. As we wait for Jehovah to act, have we personally become impatient?
Impatience can be dangerous, for it can cause us to behave rashly. How can we maintain a waiting attitude?” (w13 11/15 p.10)
The article goes on to discuss the prophet Micah, who is held aloft as an example of loyally waiting on Jehovah despite not seeing the final fulfilment of God’s promises. The reader is then reminded of future events, including the cry of “peace and security,” said to be imminent.
Finally the article concludes by urging Witnesses to “close ranks against the Devil and the demons” by drawing close to one another and displaying “confidence in Jehovah’s leadership.”
Throughout the magazine, the reader is reminded of how “imminent” Armageddon is.
“God’s promised new world is near, and our salvation is nearer than we may think.” (w13 11/15 p.7)
“Our way of life will thus reveal that we are staying awake spiritually and that we really believe that the end of this wicked system of things is imminent.” (w13 11/15 p.7)
“If we are busy helping others to gain accurate knowledge about God, the time remaining before the coming of Jehovah’s judgment will pass more quickly. Soon—even suddenly—time will run out. When it does, how glad we will be that we kept busy in the Kingdom preaching work!” (w13 11/15 p.12)
“In the near future, the nations will say ‘Peace and security!’” (w13 11/15 p.12)
“Already we see indications that her [false religion's] demise is near.” (w13 11/15 p.13)
“Soon, Jehovah’s day will come.” (w13 11/15 p.14)
“In the near future, Jehovah’s apparently vulnerable people will come under attack…” (w13 11/15 p.20)
The aim of the magazine is obvious. The reader is to be kept in a heightened state of expectation despite the fact that the Society has been making the same promises as those quoted above for generations. No acknowledgment is made that, just perhaps, the reason why Witnesses are becoming “impatient” is because they have now been hearing these promises for decades, and appear to be no closer to seeing any fulfilment.
Reaching out to inactive ones
Every year an unknown number of Witnesses are so disillusioned that they become “inactive” and drift away from the organization. In doing so they often learn the real truth about Watchtower’s history or teachings from websites such as this, but they decide against formally disassociating themselves in order to avoid the harmful repercussions of doing so, i.e. shunning by relatives.
Now, in this latest article, it seems the Society is trying to bolster their numbers by reaching out to so-called “faders” and beckoning them to return. The writers plead directly with inactive ones on pages 13 and 14…
“Are you among those who are not now actively serving God? Perhaps someone in the congregation hurt you and as a result you stopped associating with Jehovah’s organization. Since some time may have passed, ask yourself: ‘Is my life now more meaningful, and am I happier? Was it Jehovah who offended me, or was it an imperfect human? Has Jehovah God ever done anything to harm me?’ Really, he has always done good toward us. Even if we are not living up to our dedication to him, he allows us to enjoy the good things he provides. (Jas. 1:16, 17) Soon, Jehovah’s day will come. Now is the time to return to our heavenly Father’s loving arms and to the congregation—the only safe haven in these last days.—Deut. 33:27; Heb. 10:24, 25.” (w13 11/15 pp.13,14)
Of course, inactive ones like myself must answer these questions for themselves. However, I for one have difficulty even taking the questions seriously. For example, I may not attend meetings or preach as a Witness anymore, but I do not consider myself to be no longer “serving God.” I am neither serving nor ‘disserving’ God any more now than when I was an active Witness, because I have done research and satisfied myself that the organization is no more associated with God than any other religion.
Another question asks, “Was it Jehovah who offended me, or was it an imperfect human?” Again, the question sidesteps any need to prove whether or not the organization has anything to do with God, and simply equates Jehovah with the organization. In the mind of the writer, the two are apparently indistinguishable.
Finally, as to the question “Is my life now more meaningful, and am I happier?” I can answer emphatically that yes, I am much happier. I may not have all the answers, and not everything in my life may be perfect, but what problems I do experience mostly stem from the harm caused by an authoritarian religion robbing many of my family members of the ability to think for themselves.
Apart from that, I am certainly happier because I am no longer wasting time and money running around and getting stressed attending meetings and preaching to people solely to satisfy the demands of a religion that teaches things that are demonstrably false, and even harmful.
All in all, I find it baffling that Watchtower should encourage Witnesses to reach out to inactive ones in this way, and risk exposing them to individuals who have discovered the real truth about the organization. The naivety with which this part of the magazine is written suggests to me that the Watchtower writer in question is completely deluded. He believes that Watchtower is almost synonymous with Jehovah, and that deep down those who fade from the organization retain a similar devotion. If only he knew the real truth!
“Obey any instructions”
At various points in the magazine the reader is reminded of the need to obey the elders regardless of any mistakes they may make. An article on page 16 entitled “Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes—What They Mean for Us Today” gives a lengthy discussion of events during the time of Hezekiah when the Jews came under attack from Assyrian forces.
The prophecy in Micah regarding seven shepherds and eight dukes is then claimed to be a foregleam of the role of elders during the time of the end. Elders are said to be a provision from Jehovah to protect against the “modern-day Assyrian.” Nowhere is this “Assyrian” clearly identified, rather he is referred to as being either one or all of a number of potential foes, including “Gog of Magog,” “the king of the north,” and “the kings of the earth.”
If the above application of Micah’s prophecy sounds baffling and cryptic, the ensuing instructions to elders are even more so. Consider the guidance given in paragraph 17…
“Elders who are reading this article can draw some useful conclusions from the account we have just considered: (1) The most practical step that we can take to prepare for the coming attack of ‘the Assyrian’ is that of strengthening our faith in God and helping our brothers to do the same. (2) When ‘the Assyrian’ attacks, the elders must be absolutely convinced that Jehovah will deliver us. (3) At that time, the lifesaving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not. (4) Now is the time for any who may be putting their trust in secular education, material things, or human institutions to adjust their thinking. The elders must stand ready to help any who may now be wavering in their faith.” (w13 11/15 p.20)
Aside from the usual broadside against higher education, a more worrying aspect of the above quote is found in the sentences highlighted in bold. You see, Watchtower is already issuing elders with directions that are not “sound” or “practical,” most notably in its harmful approach to child abuse, which is already yielding multiple lawsuits, some of which are only now being publicized.
The idea that elders can expect yet more controversial orders from their Brooklyn masters in the near future is disturbing to say the least. It leads me to wonder, is there a strategy behind this? Is the Governing Body trying to prepare elders to show unflinching loyalty during some future situation that they have already mapped out? I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that score.
Regardless of what the future holds, the siege mentality encouraged in this latest article and encouragement to accept Watchtower’s authority at all costs is there for all to see. The very expression “close ranks” encourages a divisive “us against them” approach that I’m sure will be played out in countless homes and families around the world wherever there are stray family members to be shunned.
As depressing as it is to see Watchtower becoming increasingly radicalized, I can only hope the ramped-up rhetoric will strike a chord and prove to indoctrinated Witness friends and relatives that all is not as it should be. One thing is certain – if they are expecting something to happen between now and October 2014, they will end up sorely disappointed. And Watchtower knows it.
- PDF download of November 15th Watchtower
- Marvin Shilmer’s article ”Danger, Witness Robinson! Danger!!!”