This Sabbath Message brings the series on false prophecy and false prophets up to the present time.
The last section of the series dealt with the false prophecies of the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong, and those of the Jehovah Witnesses up to the great anticipation of 1975. By that time Christ had not arrived as predicted. Indeed, the WCG had not only not gone to Petra as their Place of Safety, as stated by Armstrong and his ministry, but also it did not even look like it was going anywhere. The false doctrine surrounding this prophecy is explained in the paper The Place of Safety (No. 194). As we have seen, not a single prophecy they or the JWs made had come to pass.
The back-pedalling and self-justification had begun, mind you, without actually admitting any errors.
In the middle of the 1970s Herbert Armstrong had trouble with a large number of ministers over errors and internal politics.
In an effort to control them he said in a newsletter in the middle of the 1970s, "Ministers who rebel against me and leave this organization are reduced to working with their hands".
It has been observed by other writers, and by people who have left the WCG system, that this comment was a revealing statement on how he saw "the dignity of labor". Indeed, much of his ministry had never worked with their hands and many had barely worked at all, unless you count a midweek Bible study and a Sabbath sermon as work.
Regardless of the facts of the matter, there were two of these ministers who
left him and who became wealthy. Art Makarow and Robert Kuhn became millionaires.
Another, Ernest Martin, became prosperous, successful and was also respected
in the Biblical academic community. Indeed, had Ernest Martin been listened
to while in WCG, many of the errors of Armstrongism would have been corrected
and perhaps many more people might still be alive over the healing doctrines.
1975 was held to have
“Marked the beginning of a period of education in the written Word of God from the standpoint that Bible prophecy is best understood after it has been fulfilled. So there needed to be a correction of our previous views, and the surviving remnant of spiritual Israel needed to be readjusted to the post-war realities and opportunities... This revised program of Bible education had a profound effect on the remnant. It oriented their work in the right direction.” (Man's Salvation Out Of World Distress At Hand, 1975, p. 191)
"It may be that some who have been serving God have planned their lives according to a mistaken view of just what was to happen on a certain date or in a certain year. They may have, for this reason, put off or neglected things that they otherwise would have cared for. But they have missed the point of the Bible’s warnings concerning the end of this system of things, thinking that Bible chronology reveals the specific date." (Watchtower, July 15, 1976, p. 440)
Herbert Armstrong had not given up making false statements, even though he had been wrong on every single occasion he made a prophecy. For an unexplained reason, and perhaps he did not know the reason himself, he used the 1927-year as a reference point. It was the previous jubilee year from the year in which he was speaking, and which was itself a jubilee year. He could have made some sense of that fact but did not do so. Instead he said, "During this generation-within 60 to 90 years or less-from 1927-Christ will come again...." (Co-worker letter, Jan. 20, 1977, p. 4.) HWA
This was the only prophecy Herbert Armstrong ever uttered that had a chance of becoming true, but at the latter ninety years, and not the sixty years which was the earlier period. If he had understood the jubilee timings and system, he would have made much more of this potential period, which was in fact the approximate end of the age. If the six thousand year period (symbolised by the six working days of the week) has any validity, and the 4004 BCE date of the Bible chronology is correct, then Satan’s period of rule ends in 2027 BCE. That year is 6,000 years from 3974/3 BCE, which marked the cursing of the earth and the beginning of the time frame in the first year of the cycle in 3973 BCE. The time by which it is cut short is the time from which Messiah is sent to the earth to save those who eagerly await him. This simple understanding was not even comprehended by Armstrong, Hoeh, Meredith nor any of the other WCG ministry, nor the Church of God (Seventh Day), the RCG/WCG offshoots, the Adventists, nor by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is the most basic and critical of all the prophetic tables of reference and it was never used or correctly calculated. God’s Calendar is fundamental to understanding all Bible prophecy. To understand the Calendar, you have to keep it properly and you have to keep the astronomical New Moons (or Conjunctions) as its basis.
Also in 1977, the JWs were looking to the Sabbath year of 1926 in the previous jubilee cycle. They seemed not to even comprehend its significance, although it simply followed the disappointment of 1925 and this seems to have been the reason. It also may be the reason Herbert Armstrong took 1927 up, and perhaps from their garbled theories. Herbert was a great plagiariser and he may well have been stealing the errors from the JWs as well as the material of Rupert, Allen, and the others. The JWs said:
Truly the year 1926 deserved to be marked as the happy climax of the close of the 1,335 days. Those of Daniel's "people" who kept in expectation and reached the end of the 1,335 days were launched off into a happiness that has not diminished, but that, despite mounting persecution and World War II (1939-1945) and subsequent world troubles, has persisted and increased. (Our Incoming World Government-God's Kingdom, pp. 146-147, 1977)
By this time televangelism had taken off in a big way and there were budding false prophets everywhere.
In 1978, Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Cost Mesa, CA, predicted the rapture in 1981.
In a 1978 co-worker letter, HWA predicted that the next pope would very rapidly unite Europe. This matter of the pope in 1978 was a major element of prophecy, but he did not seem to understand the ramifications. John Paul I was murdered in the Vatican after a month in office and before he could bring in the reforms he planned. John Paul II, who did not unite Europe, succeeded him. However, the EEC has expanded under his papacy. John Paul II is severely disabled and expected to die in the not too distant future (see the paper The Last Pope: Examining Nostradamus and Malachy (No. 288)).
In 1979 the Jehovah’s Witnesses published some comments on the inspiration of the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society leaders. They call them faithful and discreet slaves and they are of the so-called slave class. They claimed that the writings that formed the Christian part of God’s Word were inspired and infallible, but the later writings were not inspired and infallible. This is the first real admission that these endless false prophesies of Russell and Rutherford were uninspired. From this admission we can form two discreet observations and divisions.
1. The Bible is inspired.
2. The writings of the JWs are not inspired and have not been since their inception.
“Because of this hope, the "faithful and discreet slave" has alerted all of God's people to the sign of the times indicating the nearness of God's Kingdom rule. In this regard, however, it must be observed that this "faithful and discreet slave" was never inspired, never perfect. Those writings by certain members of the "slave" class that came to form the Christian part of God's Word were inspired and infallible, but that is not true of other writings since. Things published were not perfect in the days of Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watch Tower 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. But let us never forget that the motives of this "slave" were always pure, unselfish; at all times it has been well meaning. (The Watchtower; March 1, 1979; p. 24)
They also said:
“Partly because of eagerness to be alive when Jesus Christ reveals himself in glory, there have been believers throughout the centuries who began looking for a particular period or a year for the windup of the ungodly system of things. This has happened right down to these "last days." Since certain expectations were not realized, many stumbled and returned to the ways of the world. In fulfilment of Peter's words, even today we hear the voice of ridiculers. (2 Peter 3:3,4)” (Choosing The Best Way Of Life, 1979, p. 169)
In 1979 an article by Gene Hogberg in the “PT” said that the “Panama Canal Treaty” means the US has forever lost control of the canal.
In 1989 the U.S. invaded Panama and ousted the anti-American dictator Noriega. However, the loss of the canal to permanent U.S. control is still a worrying factor in international politics.
In 1980 Leland Jensen the leader of a Baha’I World Faith group, predicted that a nuclear disaster would happen in 1980. This would be followed by two decades of conflict, ending in the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.
The nuclear hostilities are seemingly evident from the Bible texts. However, aside from Japan, they did not occur in the 20th century despite these many prophecies.
The JWs were still hedging their bets and making statements regarding their prophecies in 1975. They were now claiming that some had said it was more a probability than a possibility. Readers can see for themselves what they actually did say. They seem to continually rewrite matters to fit their statements. Their comments regarding earthquake activity are also being examined elsewhere to show it is the opposite of what was claimed for the 20th century after 1914, but that is another matter for another day.
"With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of mans existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a build-up of the expectation already initiated....In saying anyone, the Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah's Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the build-up of hopes centered on that date. (Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p. 17-18).
However, they also cannot give up the false statements. They also said:
If the wicked system of this world survived until the turn of the century (the year 2000), which is highly improbable in view of world trends and the fulfilment of Bible prophecy, there would still be survivors of the World War I generation. However, the fact that their number is dwindling is one more indication that "the conclusion of the system of things" is moving fast toward its end. (The Watchtower, Oct. 15, 1980, p. 31)
The fact is that the people alive in 1914 are almost all dead and the century has ended, and we are still not through the necessary events that must take place before the coming of the Messiah. The youngest is 90 years of age in the beginning of 2005.
In 1981 the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, predicted that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established in this year. It was not and he thus joined the ranks of the false prophets.
In 1982 the JWs began to say that their predictions were actually correct and that things began right on time in 1914, as they had predicted. One needs only to look at what they said above to realise the falsity of these claims. Even their claims about what was said or claimed by the world leaders were false. The world powers drifted into WWI with certain inevitability about it and a sense of adventure and empire. They said:
"The Bible not only foretold these things, but indicated that they would occur on a worldwide scale. Also, the Bible said that all these things would happen upon the generation that was alive in 1914. Yet what were prominent world leaders foretelling just before 1914? They were saying that conditions promising world peace were never more favorable. Yet the terrible troubles the Bible foretold began right on time, in 1914! In fact, world leaders now say that 1914 was a turning point in history. After drawing attention to the many things that have marked the period from 1914 onward, Jesus said: 'This generation will by no means pass away until all these things [including the end of this system] occur.' (Matthew 24:34, 14) Which generation did Jesus mean? He meant the generation of people who were living in 1914. Those persons yet remaining of that generation are now very old. However, some of them will still be alive to see the end of this wicked system. So of this we can be certain: Shortly now there will be a sudden end to all wickedness and wicked people at Armageddon." (You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, p 154, 1982)
In 1982 Pat Robertson joined the ranks of the false prophets. He predicted a few years previously that the world would end in the fall of 1982.
In 1982 Armstrong made another false prophecy showing his total ignorance of the British. In a co-worker’s letter he told the faithful to expect Argentina to sink Britain's Royal Navy in the Falklands War. The British destroyers were actually found to have a weakness in the deck systems. The steel had been replaced by inflammable aluminium compounds for lightness and hence speed. A few were lost, but otherwise it was a total victory for Britain in less than 2 months. The Argentine navy was crippled or trapped in port and the Argentine air force was destroyed. The Argentine dictator and his supporters and their system fell.
In another 1982 co-worker letter he said: "I hope to arrange for the use of Petra as a possible refuge or place of safety during the Great Tribulation when I see King Hussein. Pray for this please."
Anyone who had been to the area would have been praying for the reverse. Even in 1992 there were still people of the opinion that the “Place of Safety” existed, and that it was Petra. There were articles published on the matter. One of the CCG leaders heard a sermon given on Petra by a WCG evangelist in 1988. It was a mixture of Scriptures combined to show that the word Selah in Hebrew meant “rock” and that word applied to Petra. Where any reference was made to Selah, it meant Petra. Selah was used in a relationship to Kadesh Barnea, which was conveniently misplaced by a hundred odd kilometers to the other side of the Dead Sea. Selah was dragged from sections in the Psalms and used as a reference to Petra, no matter what the context and completely out of context and meaning. The sermon was fascinating in its appeal to ignorance.
Herbert Armstrong’s prophecies were never right and no one took him seriously, except the people in WCG who had suspended judgment.
It has been observed by a number of people that, on his last visit to Jerusalem in1984, Herbert Armstrong began to realize that he was regarded as irrelevant or worse. The Israeli leaders did not take him seriously. By this time, he was industrially incompetent at the very least. It is alleged that he raved, before an audience of diplomats, saying that ruin and destruction would come after him. He died in January 1986. The date of 16 January then became a date in subsequent years for which subsequent false prophets in the offshoots, such as the Philadelphia Church of God, continually made false prophecies.
His curses on Israel seemed to be of no effect. The war with Lebanon ended almost immediately afterwards. The decade that followed saw much greater peace and economic stability and prosperity for Israel and Jerusalem, with inflation now under control. The 1987 Palestinian uprising was unable to dislodge Israeli control.
It was perhaps that the loss of Jerusalem by Jordan and the kingdom to Israel rankled Armstrong. It stopped him broadcasting from there. One can say that God silenced him from spreading his false prophecy from Jerusalem. At the very least, we must assume God was indifferent to it as He did not intervene and Herbert Armstrong never undertook that function. Thus, he cannot have been in any capacity as a witness, or indeed a prophet, from all of the above.
In 1984 the JWs were still speculating on how the survivors of the 1914 era might last until the end. Even after all that error and false prophecy, they were still setting dates for which Christ obviously had no plan to keep.
“Some of that "generation (of 1914)" could survive until the end of the century. But there are many indications that "the end" is much closer than that! (The Watchtower, March 1, 1984 pp. 18-19)
In 1984 they had to rewrite the customary understanding of the term “generation”. It was usually understood to mean a period of forty years and that period usually applied to a period of repentance also. They had to stretch it then to mean those actually born at the time and still alive at present. Even then, they were running out of time and live bodies. They said:
"These definitions embrace both those born around the time of a historic event and all those alive at that time. If Jesus used 'generation' in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them 'will by no means pass away until all things occur." (Watchtower, 15 May 1984, p. 5)
In 1986 the JWs were still trying to justify 1914 as some significant date in prophecy, which it was not. They said:
“As far back as 1876, Jehovah' s Witnesses realized that Bible prophecy marked the year 1914 C.E. as a time when major events would take place that would have far-reaching effects on human affairs. They gave the reason for this fact wide publicity. (True Peace And Security, 1986, p. 70).
On the same page they said:
“Prophetic information in the Bible about our day detail the following: ... (4) The survival of at least some of the generation that saw the beginning of "the conclusion of the system of things." (True Peace And Security, 1986, p. 70).
Now this explanation is directly contrary to the Bible prophecy of these matters because they do not understand the Resurrection of the Dead. God said, through the prophet Isaiah, that the righteous were taken away to protect them from these things (Isa. 57:1-2).
On 3rd October 1988, the “Rapture” was predicted, by Edgar E. Whisenant to occur on this day. He then explained that his maths had been incorrect.
In 1989 the JWs were still hard at work getting it wrong.
"The apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our 20th century." (Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1989, p. 12 [the bound volume changed "20th century" to "day"])
In this year they started to rationalise how the early JWs (Bible Students) were really part of a personality cult based around the exaltation of Russell and the Judge. Thus, the leadership were distancing themselves from the false prophecy and the false prophets, even though they themselves had been and still were pushing that bandwagon. They said:
“In the early part of our 20th century prior to 1919, the Bible Students, as Jehovah's Witnesses were then known, had to be released from a form of spiritual captivity to the ideas and practices of false religion. Although having rejected such false teachings as the Trinity and immortal soul, they were still tainted by Babylonish practices. Many had developed a self-righteous attitude in character development. Some were exalting creatures, indulging in a personality cult that focused on Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Without any Biblical basis, they were observing birthdays and Christmas. The cross was still prominent in their thinking. Some even wore a cross-and-crown lapel emblem, while others sought the respectability accorded Christendom.” (The Watchtower, May 1, 1989, p. 3)
Notice they had still retained their “Church of God” doctrines being Unitarian, and rejected the soul doctrine, birthdays, Christmas etc. But the basis of their rejection of these practices stemmed from the Laws of God, which they then claimed had been done away in order to reject the Sabbath and the Calendar. Their theology is logically untenable. It is based on the errors of a proven false prophet whom they now acknowledge to be part of a personality cult. Why then do they not repent and restore the Laws of God? It is simply too hard and they don’t understand it.
In 1989 they also had to explain the fact that they had grown and much more was now at stake. They were happy with the way things were, thank you.
"Back in 1904, the book The New Creation called attention to this new organization that came into existence in the first century C.E. (Studies In The Scriptures, Series VI, Study V, entitled "The Organization of the New Creation") Owing to its view of what the end of the Gentile Times would mean, that book did not envision the remarkable organizational work that was due to take place after the crippling effects of the first world war of human history." (The Watchtower; Sept. 1, 1989; p. 12-13)
They even reversed some of their earlier predictions and timings. They labelled the Roman Catholics for doing something they themselves had done. In 1989 they said:
"Some Roman Catholics have claimed that Jesus Christ's thousand Year Reign ended in 1799 when French armies captured Rome and deposed the pope as its ruler, so that he was deported as a prisoner to France, where he died." (Watchtower, Sept. 1, 1989, p. 12.) (In the 1927 Creation work they made the same argument on pages 293 & 294.)
They carried on to justify the fact that they were kept alive in the flesh after 1918, and that perhaps prevented them from properly understanding the Resurrection of the Dead.
The preservation of the remnant of spiritual new creation to the end of World War 1 in 1918 and their being kept alive in the flesh in the post-war year of 1919 came as a wondrous surprise. (The Watchtower; Sep.1, 1989, p.13).
They further distanced themselves from the false prophecies but referred back to the so-called slave class of which their leaders claim to follow in the path of the apostles. If they followed the apostles they would do as they did and keep the Sabbaths, and the News Moons, and the Feasts of God. They said that they have
“a modern Governing Body of older Christian men from various parts of the earth who give needed oversight to the worldwide activities of God's people. These men, like the apostles and older men in Jerusalem in the first century, are anointed members of the faithful and discreet slave class designated by Jesus to care for all of his Kingdom interests here upon earth. History has proved that they can be trusted to follow the direction of the holy spirit and that they do not rely on human wisdom in teaching the flock of God the ways of genuine peace.” (The Watchtower; Dec. 15, 1989, p. 6)
In these days of conjectural prophecy, the Pentecostals did not want to be left out in the cold so they joined the bandwagon as well in 1989 in the form of Benny Hinn. On 31 December 1989 Benny Hinn, speaking at the Orlando Christian Centre, reportedly said words to the effect of, "The Spirit tells me … Fidel Castro will die … in the 90's. Some will try to kill him and they will not succeed. But there will come a change in his physical health, and he will not stay in power, and Cuba will be visited of God." - (Benny Hinn, Orlando Christian Center, 31 Dec. 1989).
He also reportedly went on and said at the same meeting:
"The Lord also tells me to tell you in the mid 90's, about '94-'95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America. [At this point the audience applauded] But He will not destroy it - with what many minds have thought Him to be, He will destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and be destroyed." - Benny Hinn Orlando Christian Center, 31 Dec. 1989)
In 1990, Elizabeth Clare, Prophetess of Church Universal and Triumphant, prophesied that nuclear war would occur. Another false prophecy.
In this year the JWs were still trying to calm ruffled feathers and disillusioned brethren.
“Adult Christians too can be disappointed, and this has in some cases led to spiritual disaster. Some set their hope on a date when they were sure Armageddon would come. When nothing happened on that day, they felt let down.” (The Watchtower; 4/15/1990, p. 27)
In spite of their false prophecy, the JWs still had not learned and gave us another dose in 1992.
"Today, a small percentage of mankind can still recall the dramatic events of 1914. Will that elderly generation pass away before God saves the earth from ruin? Not according to Bible prophecy. 'When you see all these things,' Jesus PROMISED, 'know that he is near at the doors. Truly I say to you that THIS generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' - Matthew 24:33, 34." (Watchtower May 1, 1992 page 3: The Year That Shocked The World)
We saw new members added to the ranks of the prophets in 1992 also. The Church of the Living Stone Mission for the Coming Days, prophesied that Jesus would return on October 28 1992.
In 1993 the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society began to rewrite its history of prophecy and prediction. The society produced a work that allegedly contained a history of events and important dates for the society and the religious movement. It was titled Jehovah's Witnesses, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, and was published in 1993. As many have observed, at the end of this book there is a chronological section called “Notable Dates”. Most observers are appalled that the predictions for 1925 and 1975, which as we see from this work seemed endless in their speculation, were not even listed. Some observers have said that it was a revision of history for the gullible new converts.
Yet they did mention 1914 and 1925 in their writing of that year. This seems to be the use of a sort of cognitive dissonance.
"Further, the widely circulated booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die presented the view that in 1925, God's purposes regarding the restoring of the earth to Paradise and the resurrecting of the faithful ones of old would begin to be fulfilled. ... The year 1925 came to its conclusion, but the end was not yet! Ever since the 1870's, Bible Students had been serving with a date in mind - first 1914, then 1925. Now they realized that they must serve for as long as Jehovah wishes." (Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1993, p. 12).
In 1995 the JWs introduced another version of the term “this generation” used in Matthew 24 by Christ, than they had used previously in applying it to the 1914 generation. They said the term: "apparently refers to the peoples of earth (now) who see the sign of Christ presence but fail to mend their ways." (Watchtower November 1, 1995 p.12).
However, they had also said in June of 1995:
Bible Students, known since 1931 as Jehovah's Witnesses, also expected that the year 1925 would see the fulfilment of marvellous Bible prophecies. ... More recently, many Witnesses conjectured that events associated with the beginning of Christ's Millennial Reign might start to take place in 1975. Their anticipation was based on the understanding that the seventh millennium of human history would begin then. (Awake, June 22, 1995 p. 9)
The change reflected in the text of the 1 Nov 1995 article of the Watchtower was reflected in the publishing of the Awake in 1995, "Why Awake is Published." Before 8 November 1995 they said:
“Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away."
After 8 November 1995 the reference to “1914 generation” was deleted. The edition said:
"Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things."
Thus, like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984, in which Winston worked ceaselessly rewriting the records of the past to fit the politics of the present, we see the prophecies reworked and rewritten or erased to hide the fact that the leaders are fallible and, what’s more, purport to speak for God when they have been given no such command. More importantly, they are endlessly in error.
The most important thing to note is that if anyone asserts to speak for God and does not speak according to the Law and the Testimony, there is no light in him or her (Isa. 8:20).
Herbert Armstrong not only was not a prophet of God, but also he never made a prophecy that was correct or came to pass. Thus, he failed the first test. He was a simple minister of the Church of God (SD) who became an independent, and performed in an independent ministry of the Churches of God. He was recognised by the JWs as a true minister of God.
So also we may dismiss Charles Taze Russell and Judge Rutherford, and everyone else who has produced a false prophecy in this record. They were not prophets. They were simple officers of the Adventist system who took those doctrines and used them to their advantage, as had Herbert Armstrong.
Charles Taze Russell, was born February 16, 1852, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was originally raised a Presbyterian but became a Congregationalist. At 16 years of age in 1868, he found himself losing faith. He had begun to doubt not only church creeds and doctrines, but also God and the Bible itself. At this critical juncture a chance encounter restored his faith and placed him under the influence of Second Adventist preacher, Jonas Wendell.
He came under the influence of various Adventist laymen and clergy. The most notable of these were Advent Christian Church minister, George Stetson, and the Bible Examiner's publisher, George Storrs. He came to meet locally on a regular basis with a small circle of friends to discuss the Bible, and this informal study group came to regard him as their leader or pastor.
Russell came to be associated with an Adventist system to which he became exposed in January 1876 when he was 23 years old. Russell had received a copy of The Herald of the Morning, an Adventist magazine published by Nelson H. Barbour, of Rochester, New York.
The reader might recall from our other publications, that the Adventists had reached “The Great Disappointment” in 1844 when the proclaimed coming of the Messiah failed to materialise. The Advent covered the period commencing in 1842 proclaiming the Advent from March 1843 and readjusted to March 1844, and ending at Atonement in October 1844. The prophecies had failed to produce a Messiah. The Adventists called this “The Great Disappointment”. Ellen G. White had grown from this aspect and her particular brand of false prophecy was directed at proving vegetarianism. The heavenly Millennium was directed at hiding the prophecies that proved an earthly system with meat consumption during the millennial system. We have drawn attention to these errors and false prophecies in the papers The Pre-Advent Judgment (No.176) and the Millennium and the Rapture (No 95).
The Church of God (Seventh Day) had been formed from a group of the Churches of God that had not been embroiled in this same false prophecy and had split from the Adventists following the errors of the Whites and the false prophecy of Ellen White. Others under the broad heading of "Adventism" included the Advent Christian Church, the Life and Advent Union, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and various Second Adventist groups.
Barbour’s group had arisen among the Adventists that had been affected by “The Great Disappointment”. They managed to get around this failure by projecting an invisible return, and by the 1870s they had an independent organisation such that they could publish these claims. Barbour's group at that time claimed that Christ returned invisibly in 1874.
Barbour had come up with a basis for reinterpreting the Second Coming as an invisible event in this way. In Benjamin Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott translation of the New Testament, the word rendered coming in the King James Version of Matthew 24:27, 37, 39 is translated presence. This rendering served as the basis for Barbour's group to advocate an invisible presence of Christ and based on their time calculations for that event.
In January 1876, this concept was seen by Russell in the Herald and it got his attention. He saw the potential of this Adventist splinter group. In this way, the failure of Christ to appear of 1844, as Adventist leaders had predicted, was overcome. It is an error to assert that the group simply said that Christ did return but invisibly in 1844. They may have done so earlier, but there is no published record of that assertion. However, the date published was organised around 1874, some thirty years later and probably after the publication of Wilson’s Diaglott.
Russell was moderately wealthy so he paid Barbour's way to Philadelphia and met with him to discuss their common beliefs and finances. From these negotiations, Russell became the magazine's financial backer. He was made an Assistant Editor. He reportedly contributed articles for publication as well as monetary gifts. In the same way, the small study group meeting with Russell became affiliated with Barbour's group, and the system was developed to exploit this new approach.
As a result, the public reluctance to accept this revisionist view was overcome enough to attract support.
Originally, Russell and Barbour developed the belief and taught that Christ's invisible return in 1874 would be followed by the bodily snatching away of believers to heaven, termed the “Rapture,” in 1878.
The “Rapture” was a false teaching that did not originate in the Adventists, but seems to have been exploited by Russell and Barbour for their own purposes.
They had thus become infected with a false teaching, which might itself have been the precursor to the false teachings adopted by the Whites regarding the Millennium being in heaven.
The Witnesses do not believe in the Rapture, in modern day doctrines, but believe that only a 144,000 will go to heaven.
In the early days of Nineteenth Century Adventism, the Adventists were a mixture of Unitarians and Trinitarians as well as dividing into Sabbath-keepers and Sunday-worshippers. This aspect is also dealt with in the paper Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170). This situation was much the same as it had been at the beginning of the Reformation when the Sabbatarians (sometimes called Waldensians after Peter Waldo one of their middle period elders) failed to deal with the people who had not repented of the Trinitarian error. The people joining the Advent movement did not just come from the Churches of God, but they were also from Protestantism.
After the failure of the 1878 Rapture, Barbour, editor of the Herald, revised this and other doctrines. Russell and some other members rejected some of the new ideas. Russell quit the Adventist magazine and started Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. It published its first issue dated July 1879. He also married Maria Frances Ackley in the same year. Using the Herald’s mailing list Russell began a subscription war.
Charles Russell continued to view Miller and Barbour as instruments chosen by God to lead His people in the past. Russell did not break with Adventism, but with the doctrines of N. H. Barbour and the Herald.
Zion’s Watchtower made progress by appealing to Protestant denominations and Russell spoke in these churches often, as well as to his own followers in some 30 study groups from Ohio to New England.
Originally Russell followed a non-confrontational process of not denouncing Trinitarianism as heretical, and Trinitarians had in fact coexisted in his association with Barbour and the other assistant editor of the Herald, John H. Paton, who were allegedly Trinitarian or at least Trinitarian sympathisers. In 1882, Paton broke with Russell over this issue and the magazine became openly Unitarian and anti-Trinitarian.
Russell’s followers came to view him as the "faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45 and "the Laodicean Messenger," God's seventh and final spokesman to the Christian church. He lived to see the failure of his false prophecies. He died on 31 October, 1916, more than two years after the current world system was supposed to have ended, according to his calculations, in early October, 1914. This was Halloween and the festival serves as a focal point for some to commemorate his death. Even the pyramid monument near his tomb carries the unbiblical cross and crown symbol that he favoured. The inscription on his tomb identifies him as the Laodicean Messenger. Thus, his own followers see themselves as the Laodiceans. This identification has been applied also to the Adventists, from whom he came.
They sprang from the Sardis era of the Churches of God. That era ended as prophesied with the formation of the “Living Church of God”. These two eras comprised the basis and the structure of the false prophets, and the false prophecy of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, and they continue to this very day.
Russell had instructed that his successor to the presidency would share power with an editorial committee and with the Watch Tower Corporation's board of directors, whom Russell had appointed "for life".
However, the vice president (who was Joseph Franklin ("Judge") Rutherford) a trained legal-mind, soon set about wresting all organisational authority in his own hands.
Joe (Judge) Rutherford was born in near-poverty in Missouri on Nov. 8, 1869.
Rutherford studied law under an apprentice system and passed his bar exams in
1892, later serving on occasion as a substitute judge, from which occasions
his nickname was derived.
He was Russell's chief legal advisor. He may well have even orchestrated the events as he used a loophole in their appointment to unseat the majority of the Watch Tower directors without calling a membership vote. He allegedly even had a subordinate summon the police into the offices of Society's Brooklyn headquarters to break up their board meeting and evict them from the premises. (A. H Macmillan, Faith on the March, pp. 78-80).
Rutherford secured the sects corporate structure. He then secured control of
the rest of the organisation through the gradual replacement of locally elected
elders with his own appointees. In that way the democratically organised, semi-autonomous
congregations were constricted into a tight-knit structure under his personal
This improper concentration of power saw Russellite splinter groups form such as the Chicago Bible Students, the Dawn Bible Students, and the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement. They still exist. However, Rutherford retained control of most of the Bible Students and he renamed them Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931, to distinguish them from these other groups.
Russell had concentrated on individual character development. Rutherford appealed to a different personality type by a change of direction to a form of vigorous public witnessing work, and began distributing the Society's literature from house to house.
By 1927 Rutherford required door-to-door witness and distribution of publications of all members. Rutherford concentrated his attacks against four areas: government, Prohibition, so-called big business and the Roman Catholic Church. At this time Rutherford forged a huge radio network. He exploited populist and anti-Catholic sentiment to attract thousands of additional converts.
Much of the hostility or persecution claimed to have been levelled at the Witnesses over this period and up until WWII is due to the hysterical and accusative attacks the Witnesses made on others from portable loudspeakers and phonographs, both hand held and in cars parked across the road from Churches and outside homes. In this way, they invited mob violence. Their behaviour would not be tolerated today.
Rutherford was a false prophet as we saw above. However, he did admit the fact. He said as was printed in the 1984 Watchtower,
"I made an ass of myself." (The Watchtower, October 1, 1984, p. 24).
Rutherford reportedly supported the Nazi movement in Europe even though the Nazis later killed many as Bibel Forshers or Bible Researchers.
It was reported that Rutherford said:
“The present government of Germany has declared emphatically against Big Business oppressors and in opposition to the wrongful religious influence in the political affairs of the nation. Such is exactly our position: Instead of being against the principles advocated by the government of Germany, we stand squarely for such principles and point out that Jehovah God through Christ Jesus will bring about the full realization of these principles.” Joseph Franklin Rutherford (Watchtower and Bible Tract Society).
Much of this was like the early cultivation of the Nazis by all groups. Most
were under the illusion that it would not be their turn later.
Vice President Nathan Homer Knorr inherited the presidency upon Rutherford's death in 1942. Knorr left doctrinal matters largely in the hands of Frederick W. Franz, who joined the sect under Russell and had been serving at Brooklyn headquarters since 1920.
Knorr lacked the personal magnetism and charisma of Russell and Rutherford. Instead, he concentrated on developing the organisation. Knorr focused followers' devotion on the 'Mother' organization rather than on himself.
Under Knorr, for the first time, the Watchtower Society began producing literature that was written anonymously. The organization itself was virtually personified in this way. Readers were directed to
"show our respect for Jehovah's organization, for she is our mother and the beloved wife of our heavenly Father, Jehovah God." (The Watchtower, May 1, 1957, p. 285).
It was the same system that the WCG adopted to try to focus loyalty on the Church after the death of Armstrong, as he had become a cult figure there and an idol in his own right.
Knorr allegedly shifted the sect's focus from dynamic leadership to dynamic membership. He initiated training programs to transform members into effective recruiters. The average Jehovah's Witness began receiving instruction on how to speak persuasively. Men, women, and children were instructed to give mini sermons at the doors on a variety of subjects.
As its theologian, Fred Franz worked behind the scenes to restore faith in the sect's chronological calculations. As we saw, the legacy of the prophetic failures from 1925 was a disaster but the leadership could not admit error until many decades later. They were still making errors after 1975 and did not admit Rutherfords mistake in his own words until some forty-two years had passed.
The revised chronology established Christ's invisible return as having taken place in 1914 rather than 1874. During the 1960s, as we have seen in this work, the Society's publications began pointing to the year 1975 as the likely time for Armageddon and the end of the world.
The prevailing propaganda among Jehovah's Witnesses today is that the Society never predicted "the end" for 1975, but that some over-zealous members mistakenly read this into the message. However, the official prediction is well documented as we have seen. Other articles are, for example, "Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?" in The Watchtower of August 15, 1968, pp. 494-501.
The lengthy discussion ends:
"Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man's existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ… It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years." (p. 499) (For other 1975 quotes, see also David A. Reed, Index of Watchtower Errors, Baker Book House, 1990 pp. 106-110).
The training programs instituted by Knorr for proselytizing, combined with Franz's apocalyptic projections for 1975, combined to produce rapid growth in membership.
Herbert Armstrong instituted the same techniques over this period from 1932 regarding radio broadcasting. This was in common with Rutherford’s initiatives. They were less successful than the JWs under Knorr, because he developed the individuals as recruiting machines from door to door utilising the system Rutherford had set up. Armstrong did not trust or develop his people to the same extent and they were restrained because of the Sabbath restrictions themselves. It was quite frankly easier to ignore the Sabbath and the Feasts to keep them, and the exhibitionism of going door to door had a greater appeal to some of the more self-righteous of the populace.
The annual growth rate reportedly peaked at 13.5 percent in 1974. Attendance
at JW Kingdom Halls increased from around 100,000 in 1941 to just under 5 million
in 1975. There has been slower, but fairly steady growth in most years. There
were nearly 11.5 million in 1992 for the Witnesses' annual "Memorial"
service commemorating Christ's death with unleavened bread and red wine.
This growth rate is similar to the Seventh Day Adventists who have somewhat near the same figures of membership although different annual rates of growth.
During the 1970s one man rule from Watchtower headquarters was challenged. In trying to emulate authentic apostolic Christianity in 1971, an expanded Governing Body was created with a total of eleven members, including the original seven directors who had been seen to moderate the sole presidential rule that in fact existed and was registered under Pennsylvania law. This was held to be evidence of their being the authentic One True Church.
In reality, Nathan Knorr continued to rule Jehovah's Witnesses much as Russell and Rutherford had done before him. In 1975, the Governing Body members began insisting on exercising the powers granted to them in theory but denied in practice.
Franz had been discredited through his 1975 failures in prophecy as had Armstrong before him in the WCG. Despite his objections, the body he helped to create began governing and, on Knorr’s death in 1977, Franz did not enjoy the same power as his predecessors.
It was reported that even at the Brooklyn headquarters, private Bible study groups began to question the 1914-based chronology that produced the 1975 deadline.
The theology was also in respect of persons. The old guard had taught that the "heavenly calling" of believers ended in 1935. New converts after that date were consigned to an earthly paradise for their eternal reward. This view was also rightly questioned, as it is entirely unbiblical.
1975 saw a great reduction of figures and losses of people that was masked by “statistics” from HQ. The losses were reported in an investigative article in the Los Angeles Times of January 30, 1982 (pp. 4-5).
In the spring of 1980 they initiated a crack-down on dissidents, breaking up the independent Bible study groups at headquarters, and forming "judicial committees" to have those seen as ringleaders put on trial for "disloyalty" and "apostasy."
This purge culminated in the forced resignation and subsequent excommunication of the president's nephew and fellow Governing Body member Raymond V. Franz. Time magazine devoted a full-page article to this event (Feb. 22, 1982, p. 66).
Under a hysterical siege mentality, even those who had left quietly and voluntarily for personal reasons were denounced as disloyal. They were ordered shunned.
Frederick W. Franz was the sect's chief theologian from the start of Knorr's presidency in 1942 until his own death on December 22, 1992. He served for fifty years and outlived his failed prophecies by more than fifteen years.
Herbert Armstrong did the same thing, only he lived longer. Armstrong maintained a rule of fear over criticism. In the same way, Franz imposed a mini-Inquisition on the JW membership.
Whereas the WCG simply pretended that they had never said what they said, both they and Franz simply suppressed dissent. Franz did that in order to keep his doctrinal and chronological framework in force for the remainder of his lifetime. The WCG simply had no idea as to what to do for theological redirection as Armstrong was industrially senile by the mid 1980s and died in January 1986. His successor Joseph W. Tkach simply was not intelligent enough to reorganise and had no idea of what to do theologically. He simply did what his close advisors told him. They came in from outside and destroyed the organisation. In both instances, the people got what they deserved.
Milton G. Henschel was selected as the fifth Watchtower president on December 30, 1992. He was seen as probably the conservative old guard's last stand against radical change in the sect's leadership and doctrines. At age 72 Henschel became the second-youngest member of the Governing Body. The average age and the median age at the time of Henschel's appointment calculated out to about 82 years. Members in their eighties were known to sleep through meetings and to vote on matters upon being awakened. (See an eyewitness account in Raymond Franz's Crisis of Conscience, p. 40.)
The Body was thus seen to be losing its ability to provide purposeful and decisive leadership.
Because the doctrines were in error from the very beginning and the leaders did not understand the Bible structure, they relied on false prophecy. The successors of Russell and then Rutherford were forced to rewrite their theology. Their false doctrines on healing are no less dangerous and deadly than those of the WCG and the followers now in the offshoots that adhere to them. In the meantime, many more continue to die and misunderstand the intent and the Plan of God through error.
[Some of the above comments on the recent JW activities and errors are adapted from the books by David A. Reed, Worse Than Waco: Jehovah's Witnesses Hide a Tragedy copyright © 1993, (P.O. Box 819, Assonet, MA 02702); BLOOD ON THE ALTAR, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Publishers, 1996; and Index of Watchtower Errors, Baker Book House, 1990]. The behaviour and scandal reported and attributed to the Society is not reported here as the subject is false prophecy and the effect of organisations on Bible prophecy.
It has even been claimed by some Witnesses that Loma Armstrong was a Witness herself, and that Herbert Armstrong was inspired and part of the 144,000. This assertion has allegedly been repudiated, at least recently.
It is thus not too difficult to see the tangled web of prophecy that has evolved from the exposure of these opportunists to the Mysteries of God within the Churches of God. The toleration of Trinitarianism and Binitarianism/Ditheism in the Churches of God has led some Protestants to claim that their Unitarianism was either non-existent or derived from their own views, which is demonstrably false. Adventism itself was solidly Unitarian throughout the Nineteenth Century and the majority of the Twentieth Century. The opportunism of these people harmed the Church of God and its doctrines regarding the Nature of God.
The people of the organisations who hold them up to be inspired prophets of God are to be dismissed. More importantly, the second test is applied also to everyone who purports to speak for them and that is the basic and most important test of all. “Do they speak according to the Law and the Testimony?” And the answer must be “NO!”
They do not keep the Calendar of the Bible and of the Temple of God. Many mentioned herein do not even keep the Laws of God at all. They knock on one’s door and when cornered, admit that the Laws of God are done away. They do not even keep the basic Ten Commandments let alone the New Moons, and Sabbaths, and Holy Days.
Much of false prophecy has been the deliberate insertion of “white ants” in the system. Some of the people who would undermine or exploit it would enter the branches to use and corrupt the doctrines.
To this day CCG has people come in purporting to want to be part of the Church, and then spend their time trying to gather information on and attack our people, and our doctrines, and history. When they find there is not much to attack, they make it up. Sometimes it is to cover their own particular corrupt activities or weaknesses.
Some of the more unbalanced individuals allege all sorts of things that on investigation are figments of their own warped imaginations. Each allegation is independently investigated, as our Constitution requires, no matter whom it is against. Reformed alcoholics, or Wowsers, allege alcoholism when their definition of an alcoholic is anyone who drinks at all. At best they seem to think that an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than they do. Some people see conspiracy theories. Some see Free Masonry everywhere. Sometimes it is Masonic people that try to undermine us for many reasons down to simple monetary gain. Some people even claim to be ex-Masons, when they are not, for whatever reason. Sometimes the unbalanced allege mental problems in others. Sometimes the people attacking us are ex-Churches of God, or Catholics, or Baptists, or Adventists, or Animal Liberationists, or whoever. The thing they usually have in common is that they seem to want to attack someone, and at that time it happens to be the Churches of God we represent. Often people want to put their particular twist on doctrine and that is usually how the false prophecies intrude into the Mysteries of God.
Many of these people are businessmen like Charles Taze Russell and F. B Rutherford, and to a lesser extent Herbert Armstrong, who saw opportunities to milk a gullible public who were not dedicated enough to follow the Bible teachings fully and correctly.
To be fair, it is important to note that each of us starts out in a world that has corrupted the Bible, and when the Bible is studied it is found to be far different to what is taught by the so-called Christian religions. That is the story of most of the members of the Churches of God. We come to the truth out of a desire to know the truth and that is where these false teachers are most culpable. They intrude on the capacity of the elect to reach the truth from their own self-interest.
The only thing of which we can be sure is that each person called into the body of Christ is a sinner and in need of baptism and the Holy Spirit. All of us have sinned. Some of us have committed crimes and some of those have been tried and sentenced.
It is a matter of doctrine that we are not to idolise men and organisations.
The success of the Body of Christ depends on the faithfulness of each person
in it to the truth and the Mysteries of God.
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