(Also relevant is the article “Directed by Holy Spirit” on jwfacts.com)
Deuteronomy states that a prophet that speaks something that does not come true is not from Jehovah and should be put to death. The Watchtower has claimed its members to be Jehovah’s Prophet. This is important to reflect on in light of the Watchtower’s string of failed prophecies, such as that the battle of Jehovah would be within the twentieth century.
“However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it.” Deuteronomy 18:20-22
The Bible condemns false prophesying in God’s name. The Watchtower Society notes that predicting a date for the end of the world amounts to false prophesy, if it does not come true.
“True, there have been those in times past who predicted an “end to the world,” even announcing a specific date. Yet nothing happened. The “end” did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing from such people were God’s truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them.” Awake! 1968 Oct 8 p.23
It is ironic that the Society condemns other religions in such manner when it has spent decade’s actively predicting wrong ‘end of the world’ dates that did not occur, such as 1914 being the year for Armageddon and 1925 being the start of the earthly resurrection, or more recently that the battle of Jehovah would be within the twentieth century.
The Watchtower Society goes as far as to call itself a prophet of God, comparing themselves to the prophets of old. This is a significant assertion when compared to the accuracy of Watchtower doctrine and the predictions about future dates.
“This was the test – the coming down of fire; and the fulfillment exactly on time has proved that Pastor Russell was one of God’s great reformers and prophets.” Watchtower 1919 Oct 1 p.297
“For an answer, people should listen to the plain preaching by the remnant prefigured by Jeremiah, for these preach to men the present-day fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Who made them a prophet to speak with the authority that they claim? Well, who made Jeremiah a prophet?” Watchtower 1959 Jan 15 pp.39-41
“Those who do not read can hear, for God has on earth today a prophetlike organization, just as he did in the days of the early Christian congregation.” Watchtower 1964 Oct 1 p.601
In 1972, the Watchtower described itself as “the modern-day “prophet””.
“So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?
IDENTIFYING THE “PROPHET”
These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? … This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. … Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a “prophet” of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. Thus this group of anointed followers of Jesus Christ, doing a work in Christendom paralleling Ezekiel’s work among the Jews, were manifestly the modern-day Ezekiel, the “prophet” commissioned by Jehovah to declare the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom and to give warning to Christendom.” Watchtower 1972 Apr 1 pp.197-199 ‘They Shall Know that a Prophet Was Among Them’
In the Revelation book, they distinctly describe themselves as the Two Witnesses that prophesy accurately.
“Even while being trampled on, these loyal ones do not cease to be Jehovah’s faithful witnesses. Hence, the prophecy continues: “‘And I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days dressed in sackcloth.’ These are symbolized by the two olive trees and the two lampstands and are standing before the Lord of the earth.”—Revelation 11:3, 4. These faithful anointed Christians needed the quality of endurance, for they had to prophesy “in sackcloth.” What did this mean? In Bible times sackcloth often symbolized mourning. Wearing it was a sign that the person had been brought low in sorrow or distress. (Genesis 37:34; Job 16:15, 16; Ezekiel 27:31) Sackcloth was associated with the mournful messages of doom or grief that God’s prophets had to proclaim. (Isaiah 3:8, 24-26; Jeremiah 48:37; 49:3) The wearing of sackcloth could indicate humility or repentance in view of divine warning. (Jonah 3:5) The sackcloth worn by the two witnesses appears to indicate their humble endurance in announcing Jehovah’s judgments. They were witnesses proclaiming his day of vengeance that would bring mourning also to the nations.—Deuteronomy 32:41-43. The John class had to preach this message for a definitely stated time: 1,260 days, or 42 months, the same length of time that the holy city was to be trampled underfoot. This period seems to be literal, since it is expressed in two different ways, first in months and then in days. Additionally, at the beginning of the Lord’s day, there was a marked period of three and a half years when the hard experiences of God’s people matched the events prophesied here—starting in December 1914 and continuing to June 1918. (Revelation 1:10) They preached a “sackcloth” message concerning Jehovah’s judgment of Christendom and the world. The fact that they were symbolized by two witnesses confirms to us that their message was accurate and well founded.” Revelation, It’s Grand Climax At Hand! p.164
It is difficult to comprehend how the Watchtower could make such assertions in light of its string of failed prophecies regarding the end of the world and what Deuteronomy 18 says regarding such prophets.
In Jehovah’s Name
Deuteronomy 18:22 uses the clarification of a prophet that “speaks in the name of Jehovah”. In 1993, an article attempted to show Deuteronomy does not apply to the Watchtower Society, by reasoning they have never introduced predictions as from Jehovah.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah.'” Awake! 1993 Mar 22 p.4
This Awake! page contains one of the great ironies of Watchtower history, and is worth enlarging and reading. The article is an attack on “doomsday groups” that make false predictions, despite the Watchtower being the preeminent doomsday group of the 21st century. As a footnote it justifies itself with the statement that it does not predict “in Jehovah’s name”, when on this very page is the Awake!‘s old mission statement that it “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,” a statement that was changed when the generation teaching was likewise changed, due to the false predictions it encompassed.
It is completely untruthful that the Watchtower has not claimed that its predications are “the words of Jehovah.” The Watchtower claims everything it says is from Jehovah.
“Today, Jehovah provides instruction by means of “the faithful steward.” Pay Attention to Yourself and to All The Flock p.13
“commissioned to serve as the mouthpiece and active agent of Jehovah … commission to speak as a prophet in the name of Jehovah…” The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah” – How? pp.58,62
“… commission to speak as a “prophet” in His name…” Watchtower 1972 Mar 15 p.189
“The Watchtower is a magazine without equal in the earth …. This is not giving any credit to the magazine’s publishers, but is due to the great Author of the Bible with it truths and prophecies, and who now interprets its prophecies.” Watchtower 1943 Apr 15 p.127
“No man can properly interpret prophecy, and the Lord sends his angels to transmit correct information to his people.” Watchtower 1936 Feb 15 p.52
“The Watchtower is not the instrument of any man or set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man’s opinion is expressed in The Watchtower. God feeds his own people, and surely God uses those who love and serve him according to his own will. Those who oppose The Watchtower are not capable of discerning the truth that God is giving to the children of his organization, and this is the very strongest proof that such opposers are not of God’s organization.” Watchtower 1931 Nov 1 p.327
“Jehovah God has made known to his anointed ones in advance what these Scriptures mean.” Watchtower 1931 Jun 1 p.160
“… the truths I present, as God’s mouthpiece…” Zion’s Watch Tower 1906 Jul 15 p.230
It specifically said its prediction of the end of World War 2 was from Jehovah.
“In 1942 the “faithful and discreet slave” guided by Jehovah‘s unerring spirit made known that the democracies would win World War II and that there would be a United Nations organization set up.” Watchtower 1960 Jul 15 p.444
In presenting his prophecy that the dead would be raised in 1925, Rutherford had claimed:
“… this chronology is not of man, but of God. … the addition of more proofs removes it entirely from the realm of chance into that of proven certainty. … the chronology of present truth [is]… not of human origin.” Watch Tower 1922 Jul 1 p.217
The Reasoning Book outlines what the Watchtower considers a false prophet, explaining one to include an organisation that attributes their message to a superhuman force, but is “not in harmony with his revealed will.”
Individuals and organizations (1) proclaiming messages that they attribute to a superhuman source but that (2) do not originate with the true God and (3) are not in harmony with his revealed will.” Reasoning from the Scriptures p.132
The ongoing false predictions that the Watchtower has made fit comfortably within their own definition of a false prophet.
One must wonder how the Watchtower can make such false predictions and yet have millions of members that still trust their words are directed by God. Firstly, many Witnesses are unaware of the religions historical teachings, and the extent of doctrinal changes.
Furthermore, a clever technique is for the Watchtower to refer to failed predictions with innocuous terms such as incomplete truths or mistakes, rather than what they truthfully are – false prophecy. Notice how harmless it sounds to describe Rutherford’s false teachings as “inaccurate expectations” rather than “false prophecies”. The Watchtower indicates mistakes are minor expectational changes, attacking any that claim they have made false predictions as evilly motivated opposers.
“Some opposers claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets. These opponents say that dates have been set, but nothing has happened. Again we ask, What is the motive of these critics? … the need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false prophets….” Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.19
Other religions do not fare so well. The Watchtower describes all other religious organisations as promoting “false doctrines”, “false prophecies” and “pagan practices”, even when these groups have presented similar errors with similar intent.
Whereas doctrine is subjective and unprovable, time prophecy leaves no room for error. On a number of occasions, the Watchtower put an unmistakable line in the sand, saying Jehovah had shown them that an event would occur on a specific date. On each occasion, these dates passed without event and those statements proved beyond argument to be false. When something predicted does not occur, there is irrefutable evidence that Jehovah did not direct the interpretation – that Jehovah was not guiding the Watchtower Society.
Regardless of whether the Watchtower Society identifies a prophet as someone who:
- originates predictions
- interprets prophecy
- publicises prophecy
the Watchtower is by their own definition a false prophet by promoting false dates both in advance (1914, 1925, 20th century, generation) and retrospectively (1799, 1874, 1914).
The test of a true prophet is that their statements are correct and teachings in line with the words of Jehovah. No true prophet prophesied correctly only some of the time. Irrespective of whether the Watchtower Society rightfully considers itself a prophet, it is certain that the issuing of false doctrine and unfulfilled predictions were not at the bequest of Jehovah. Any statement not coming true was not from Jehovah.
Peter warned that false prophets would arise.
2 Peter 2:1 “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among YOU. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.”
Over the last century there are few religions this definition is more applicable to than the Watchtower Society. The failed date predictions and ongoing prophetic changes present us with one of two options:
- The information in the Watchtower is from Jehovah, in which case he has been lying to us
- Jehovah is not behind what the “Governing Body” presents in the Watchtower publications
In 1931, Rutherford justified the failure of the 1914 predictions through the claim that prophecy could not be correctly understood prior to 1918. It was only after Jesus arrival at “his temple in 1918” that Jesus provided the Watchtower with accurate understanding.
“… the faithful had waited, expecting the 1914 to mark the complete fulfilment of the prophecy. They had expected Armageddon to follow immediately after 1914 and the church to be glorified. Of course it was not due time until after 1918 to have a clearer vision of the prophecy. There were some curious speculations indulged in by them, which were mere guesses, of course, and therefore not true, because it was not God’s time for them to understand. It was after 1914 that ‘the vision spoke and did not lie’, to wit, after the coming of the Lord to his temple in 1918” Vindication p.24
Yet in the very same book, Rutherford proves that his predictions and interpretations are also mere guesses. For instance, page 21 tells us that it was in “1925, when “organized religions” were plainly seen to be in bondage to Satan”, and that Daniel’s vision of a river foreshadowed 1926; teachings no longer believed.
It is interesting to note that the Watchtower Index 1935 to 1985 contains only 3 references to Deuteronomy 18:20
18:20 si 299; ad 1500; ns 107, 155-6
The Watchtower Index 1986 to 2006 contains no references to this verse at all. It seems this verse touches a nerve in Watchtower history.
Since the Watchtower has been prominent in promoting failed predictions it now attempts to distance itself from being referred to as a prophet in the traditional sense of the word. Though still using the title of prophet, since the 1980’s the Watchtower Society explains this to be in a different way to that of old; they do not make predictions, but rather just interpret Biblical prophecies with Jehovah’s aid.
“All True Christians ARE Prophets. The New American Bible correctly states: “Prophet means ‘one who speaks for another,’ especially for God. It does not necessarily mean that he predicts the future!” You will be interested to learn that God has on earth a people, all of whom are prophets, or witnesses for God. In fact, they are known throughout the world as Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Awake! 1986 Jun 8 p. 9
Whilst trying to gain wiggle room with such an explanation, the Watchtower applies a different measure to other religions that use the Bible to predict Armageddon. Christian Preacher Harold Camping used Bible calculations to predict Judgement Day and the “end of the world” in 2011. The Watchtower refers to these predictions as prophecy, stating:
“Some believed that the earth would end on October 21, 2011. It did not. Thus, the prophecy of U.S. radio broadcaster Harold Camping rang hollow. He predicted that Judgement Day would come on May 21, 2011 …” Watchtower 2012 Feb 1 p.25
Therefore, by the Watchtower’s own standards, its interpretative predictions are prophecies, and so the failure of these prophecies deem it a false prophet.
In the January 1st 2013 Watchtower, it was admitted that Jehovah’s Witnesses have had wrong expectations, and then justifies this by comparison to first-century Christians. This is a straw man argument, attempting to shift the topic from the leadership’s predictions to the expectations of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole.
Though Jesus’ disciples may have had wrong expectations amongst themselves, the Bible does not contain these erroneous expectations as truths from Jehovah, as the Watchtower has been doing.
Jesus warned of false prophets.
Luke 21:8 “He said: “Look out that YOU are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them.”
Matthew 24:11,24 “And many false prophets will arise and mislead many… For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.”
Since the nineteenth century, few religions prove to fit this description more closely than the Watchtower Society.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to dismiss changes and errors as either mistaken eagerness or incomplete truths, yet there is only one logical conclusion that can be drawn from over a century of prophetic failures: Jehovah is not behind the information presented by the Watchtower.
Paul Grundy 2005 – 2014