“This Is the Way You Approved”…The Prodigal Son (Wt 3/15/2015) – [1 of 6]

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This article is part of a series of “commentary” articles we are presenting about the March 15, 2015 study issue of The Watchtower. Unless otherwise noted, the specific article referenced on this page is: “This Is the Way You Approved” (pps. 7-11).

 

The basic idea of this new issue is that Biblical narratives will no longer be explained in terms of “types and antitypes” except where the Bible itself supports a clear basis for such an explanation.

If the term “type-antitype” is not clear, it’s where a Biblical narrative or parable is explained as a “prophecy” or “prophetic drama” with a specific fulfillment, even if it was apparently intended primarily to present information about a historical circumstance or provide a moral lesson.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

The Watchtower article mentions that the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) was actually considered to be a prophecy about our relationship and expectations with respect to specific groups (such as large business corporations and ecclesiastical entities) right down to the end of this system. Each person and item in the parable (including the road, the inn, the money) was supposed to be “prophetic” of some revealed, specific meaning.

AHAB, JEZEBEL, NABOTH & VINEYARD

The article also mentions another example: the Biblical narrative describing the interaction among Israel’s King Ahab, Queen Jezebel and Naboth, who owned a vineyard that was unjustly seized by Ahab and Jezebel. This has been seen as a prophecy about the unjust persecution of the “anointed remnant” especially in the years between World Wars I & II. Again, each person and item in the narrative (including the vineyard) is supposed to have a specific meaning in the fulfillment. Naboth, for example is a “type” and the anointed remnant would be Naboth’s “antitype” (the fulfillment).

THE ADMITTED PROBLEMS WITH ANTITYPES

This March 15th, 2015 Watchtower mentions the major problems with such explanations, saying on page 10:

“Additionally, it has been found that some of the older explanations about types and antitypes are unduly difficult for many to grasp. The details of such teachings—who pictures whom and why—can be hard to keep straight, to remember, and to apply.  Of even greater concern, though, is that the moral and practical lessons of the Bible accounts under examination may be obscured or lost in all the scrutiny of possible antitypical fulfillments.”

[Emphasis ours, in all quotations on this page]

It should be fairly implicit, with all these problems, that these forms of explanation might now be seen as “wrong” or even “false.” The Watchtower article avoids those words, and does not even say that these explanations were “incorrect” or “mistaken.” And it will  even leave some readers with the impression that they might in some way still be correct, or at least correct for their time. The article does leave the reader with the impression that more recent, simpler explanations that dismiss the “type-antitype” model are more “discreet” and “approved” — and we are led to expect that current method of explanation will continue so that we expect less and less of such prior types of explanations in the future.  Of course, if the method were still considered to be correct, there would be no good reason to mention the problems with it, and no good reason to change explanations that made use of it, and no reason to indicate a trend toward minimizing or even discontinuing this method.

In fact, the examples that the article mentions are not even the best examples to highlight these problems that The Watchtower itself listed. It’s probably obvious that the parable of the Good Samaritan seems much better suited as a moral lesson about how all Christians should always act in a helpful, neighborly and unprejudiced way towards anyone. After all, it’s about a man beaten, robbed, and just left on the road where he is avoided and ignored by his Jewish countrymen and cared for by a person who those same countrymen would have considered religious apostates.

There are several other parables and Bible narratives that will be able to highlight all the problems that The Watchtower mentioned. We’re going to pick two of them as a foundation for our commentary on these March 15, 2015 articles. The first of those two is the primary focus of the information below:

THE PRODIGAL SON

The “Prodigal Son” example has several similarities to the Good Samaritan parable, but was not mentioned in the March 15, 2015 Watchtower. The Prodigal Son parable found in Luke 15 was about a father who had two sons, an older one who served his father loyally while the  younger one squandered away his inheritance in debauchery. Yet the father rejoices to see his younger son finally return to him and the father even throws him a great party, to the consternation of the older son.

According to the Watchtower, this is primarily a prophecy that referred to  the relationship between the earthly-bound “great crowd” (the “prodigal son”) and the heavenly-bound “anointed” (his older brother). This explanation clearly obscures the more general moral lessons about mercy, unconditional forgiveness, redemption, and jealousy. A closer look, however, shows that the problem goes much deeper.

The Watch Tower Publications Index under “Prodigal Son” and  “prophetic significance” or “application to modern times” indicates that there were three times when the illustration was discussed at length. (And each time it was discussed across two consecutive Watchtower articles.) This was in 1943, 1965 and 1989.

THE 1989 EXPLANATION

Here’s a portion of an explanation from a 1989 Watchtower:

Who, like the older son, has been critical of the mercy and attention accorded sinners? Is it not the scribes and the Pharisees? Since it is their criticism of Jesus because he welcomes sinners that prompted this illustration, they clearly must be the ones represented by the older son. …

But who in modern times do the two sons represent? … The older son represents some members of the “little flock …. These adopted an attitude similar to that of the older son. They had no desire to welcome an earthly class, the “other sheep,” who they felt were stealing the limelight. — Watchtower, 2/15/1989.

That rather uncomplimentary explanation tied the older son to both the “little flock” and to the “Pharisees.”  That idea alone might be difficult for some readers to grasp.

EACH EXPLANATION WAS DIFFERENT

What’s more complex, however, is the fact that it was initially explained in a quite different way in the 1943 Watchtower. 22 years later, in 1965, that initial article was rewritten and most of the original points were mentioned, but with a couple of points added and a couple features  de-emphasized. Then 24 years later, in 1989, the general idea remained, but with many more of the prophetic details de-emphasized, along with another change in application. So another complexity is not the explanation itself, but the changes made to these explanations as portions are reconsidered or become obsolete. And with this new Watchtower, 25 years later, in 2014/2015 we now find ourselves with the idea that the entire prophetic element has been nearly de-emphasized out of existence.

After reading the Watchtower article: “This Is the Way You Approved” it now seems unreasonable to take a parable like this with an obvious moral lesson for everyone, and treat it as a prophecy with a specific meaning at a specific time. So, it’s fair to ask: What really was the reasoning for initially treating it as such?

To answer correctly, it will be very helpful to spend just a little extra time with this particular example as it will provide us with a more accurate picture of both the reasons for the gradual dismissal of “type-antitype” explanations and the reasoning behind why such explanations ever existed in the first place.

TIME IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM

The real problem with these types of explanations is that a time element was attached to the prophecy. Time has always been the enemy of every explanation of prophecy that the Watchtower has ever attempted. In 130 years, from 1879 until the present, The Watchtower has never once managed to get a time prophecy right. As time passes, the original explanations are either completely abandoned, or they need multiple revisions, and they finally become too obsolete to have much meaning to current Watchtower readers. Note how “time” features prominently in the initial explanation of this prophecy. Except for the added commentary (in blue italic text) all the following quotes are from the November 1, 1943 Watchtower p. 323-332:

His “elder son” is therefore a picture of those who are in line for the kingly inheritance, they having consecrated themselves to God and been begotten of His spirit as his spiritual sons… The younger of the two sons represents a class who…come into his fold after the King Christ Jesus has brought the judged and approved remnant into unity with himself at the temple, hence after A. D. 1918. …[Editor: Watchtower no longer teaches that Jesus Christ came to his temple in 1918.] 

This class heard of the Kingdom message particularly before 1931. By that year the Lord had assembled all his spiritual remnant of laborers into the vineyard of his service and bestowed upon them the “penny” of the “new name”, Jehovah’s witnesses . … [Editor’s note: it was common to include multiple parable/prophecies when explaining a parable/prophecy. In this case the parable of the “penny” (denarius) had been used up until 1966 to explain that the 12 hour period in the parable meant the 12 years from 1919 to 1931 and was therefore considered to be a prophecy about the name, Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was adopted in 1931.]

The facts show that the younger son” class did not act in line with the spiritual opportunities that were open down till that year, but showed indecision or a considerable measure of indifference or lack of appreciation. … These did not want life in heaven, any more than the”younger son” wanted his brother’s share of the inheritance. … [Editor’s note: The Watchtower no longer teaches that the heavenly calling was only open until the period between 1931 and 1935, although 1935 is still currently taught as the most recent possible date for the “first resurrection,” which was taught have been specifically 1918 until about a decade ago.]

It was earthly life, the enjoyment of the natural things on this globe, that they desired. Further, they desired to enter into the enjoyment of such things during this present time before Armageddon’s war. The Kingdom reign and its blessings of the future looked good, but they desired something tangible to enjoy now, things that they could convert into the means of self-satisfaction at present. … [Editor’s note: In effect, because these early Watchtower followers had an earthly hope, they are being spoken of as somewhat carnal and materialistic, as if they could be faulted for selfish desires for having an earthly hope.]

Both prior to 1918 and for some years thereafter, practically down to 1934, Jehovah’s consecrated children, his witnesses, were… like the “elder son”… [Editor’s note: It’s not commonly known that for many years, only the anointed could be called Jehovah’s Witnesses; “other sheep” were called the Jehonadab class or just Jonadabs.]

In the year 1932 …. Thinking that consecration would lead to consequences that they did not want, namely, life in heaven at the sacrifice of all human prospects now and future, the “younger son” class did not view consecration as the course for them. The idea of applying themselves wholly to God’s service out of a mere love of righteousness and leaving the unlimited enjoyment of earthly good things till after the battle of Armageddon and its destruction of this unrighteous world of Satan, such an idea did not appeal to or take hold on them. By their course of action toward the widely-proclaimed Kingdom message they in effect made request of the Life-giver Jehovah God for their earthly portion now.  … [Editor’s note: The younger son is not said to be “worldly” but refers to those associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower, but for whom consecration to the heavenly hope did not have an appeal or hold on them.]

How, then, did the Life-giver, Jehovah God, divide the “living” and let the “younger son” class have the “share…”?  It was by shortening the days of the “great tribulation” that began upon Satan’s organization in 1914 and that will be completed in the battle of Armageddon. When Satan and his demon organization were cast out of heaven…Jehovah did not command his victorious King to push the battle further and to the limit, immediately destroying Satan and all his organization demon and human. He halted the hostilities and arranged for a “day of his preparation” for the final part of the “great tribulation”, at Armageddon. During such day of preparation God’s appointed work must be done by his anointed, spirit-begotten witnesses, his remnant.  … [Editor’s note: The Watchtower (see 7/15/2013) no longer teaches that the “great tribulation” started to run from 1914 to 1918, and that the completion of that tribulation had been delayed until just before Armageddon. Also “the day of preparation” had been seen as the time from 1878 to 1918, but this 1943 Watchtower reflects a change (from 14 years earlier) when the Watchtower kept Malachi’s time of preparation as 1878 to 1918 but adjusted Nahum’s time of preparation so that it was now explained as a period running continuously from 1918 until some time before the “great tribulation” started up again in the future. This complexity is noted to indicate how some of the intertwining arguments could change over time, but that was not rarely seen as a reason to dismiss the explanations which had been supported by those arguments.]

Thus God has shortened the days of “great tribulation” upon Satan’s organization by this break or interruption in the middle. It is during this middle period that the Lord’s “other sheep” come out from under Satan’s organization; and so it is prophetically said that they “come out of the great tribulation”.-Rev. 7: 14,  .. By granting this merciful interval, during which the “younger son” class are permitted to take first their selfish, own-chosen course till coming to their senses, Jehovah God “divided unto them his living”. To the remnant class he divided the privilege of serving Him in the field by publishing this gospel of the Kingdom; and to the “younger son” class he divided a period of time for the use of their earthly privileges according to their will, to expend their human lives selfishly before Armageddon broke, if they chose. [Editor’s note: The Watchtower no longer teaches that the “great crowd’s” desire to live on earth instead of heaven is a selfish or “self-chosen” course. Several Watchtower articles in more recent years actually took an opposite approach, reminding persons who might partake of the Memorial emblems, that this might be a self-chosen course that doesn’t reflect a true “anointed” calling. See Watchtower 2/15/2003, for example.]

 The “younger son” class, in refusing to acquire the truth or to act upon it and live in harmony with it, particularly from and after 1918, were like the world, ‘wasting their substance or goods with living like the world.’ They were squandering many and great opportunities to use their goods and strength in the service of the Lifegiver, the Most High God. And in not devoting themselves and all they had to the consecrated service of God they were, particularly down to 1931, squandering an inestimable privilege. What? An opportunity to be of the kingdom-of-heaven class, becoming the newer and younger part of God’s remnant as pictured in ancient time by Ruth and Esther.— end of quotations from The Watchtower, 11/1/1943 [Editor’s note: It is explained that by not becoming “consecrated” they squandered a chance to go to heaven. As of 1932, Rutherford began describing converts after 1919 as the “Ruth and Esther class” (and converts before 1919 as the “Naomi and Mordecai class.” This is no longer taught. These are some additional examples of how previous Bible narratives which had been tied to a specific time element were often woven into the new explanations as support.]

In other words, “The Prodigal Son” parable was a prophecy fulfilled in a specific time that matched some date-driven events related to the relationship between the “great crowd” and the “anointed” within the Watch Tower Society. The “younger son” got his early inheritance in 1918, and squandered it between 1918 and 1931. These were the “Bible Students” who liked the message of the Watch Tower publications, and associated with them at meetings and assemblies, but who were not so serious about a life of dedication, as were the “anointed remnant.” A place was finally being found for this more materialistic class between 1932 and 1934. But by then, these Bible Students had lost the opportunity to become part of the heavenly class, which was said to have been effectively filled by 1935.

DOES THE WRITER THINK “OTHER SHEEP” ARE LESS WORTHY?

The “elder son” class were members of the consecrated “anointed remnant” who looked down on the “great crowd” as less worthy. There is a strong hint of derision leveled at the “prodigal son” class by those who identify with the “elder son” class in this very issue of the November 1, 1943 Watchtower.

In fact, a careful consideration of these Watchtower articles may even reveal some very disturbing psychological issues (from that time period) which tend to contradict the typical story the Witnesses tell today about the “electrified” audience cheering and rejoicing at the identification of the “great crowd” (Jehonadabs) at the famous Washington D.C. Convention of June 1935 where the primary identification of the “crowd.”  (Link to jw.org account of 1935 assembly.)

As we’ll see below, even the 1965 version of the explanation tends to echo those same sentiments that imply that “the anointed” have had to suffer a longer than  expected association with the ‘unwashed,’ second-class citizens of the kingdom:

This precious interval of time, commencing in 1918 and ending with Armageddon, is still with us, continuing far longer than we had once expected. … During this time period the faithful remnant with the heavenly hope have gladly spent their life and time in the service of their Father, like the older son. Many of the “other sheep” of John 10:16 have done likewise. But those pictured by the younger son have selfishly grasped the God-given gifts of life and time and converted them into means of gratifying the corrupt desires of the fallen flesh.

INITIAL EXPLANATION ALREADY OBSOLETE IN 1965

By 1965 the application had been changed so that it effectively dismissed the original application to the “other sheep” who associated between 1918 and 1935.  Yet, in the initial explanation, that was really the whole purpose of the illustration. Even in 1943, the current moral lesson for recently converted “other sheep” was already  diminished, because this was considered to be mostly a fulfilled prophecy.

Notice how, in the original explanation, the “younger son” applied to all the “other sheep” from 1918 to about 1934. But to apply it after 1935, the updated explanation in 1965 needed to add a caveat:

It would not be true, however, to say that all the “other sheep” … are pictured by the “younger son.” Many of these, …. have maintained a steadfast course, and hence would not be pictured by the “younger son.”

By 1965, the time element had to be played down quite a bit. The original lesson for “other sheep” had been about how Jehovah had “divided” their inheritance in 1918, and what the younger son had squandered. In 1965, some of those time periods are still acknowledged, and the importance of taking dedication seriously is still there.  However, it now refers especially to two new groups: to those “other sheep” who currently obtain a knowledge of the message but don’t progress, and especially those “other sheep” who were baptized too young and didn’t understand the nature of their dedication (consecration). The application about being baptized “too young” was the one idea that received almost all the attention in the article:

The facts show that in many cases these have been young people, or perhaps children of dedicated parents, hence well acquainted with the hope of life in a restored paradise. Sometimes these young ones, perhaps in their early teens, have been immersed, claiming to be dedicated. Then shortly they disappear from view as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned. They become wholly absorbed in worldly ways and pleasures, sometimes indulging in shameful conduct, bringing reproach on their parents. Then the parents, in great grief, raise the question as to whether their young son or daughter really understood the significance of dedication and baptism. But is that not a poor time to raise that question? Should they not have made sure about that at the time? It is so easy for young ones to take up something with great enthusiasm for a time, then take up something else with equal zest. They are just getting a taste of what life has to offer, including the attractions of this world with its dreams and vanities. (Eccl. 4:7) They are susceptible to suggestions. They see others of their age being immersed, so why not they? With their knowledge of the truth they feel they can say Yes to the two questions put to them at the time of immersion. But can it be said that at that stage they really appreciate what it means to take the step of dedication as a perpetual “vow to God” to do his will for all time, involving their whole life? The scripture says: “Better is it that you vow not than that you vow and do not pay,” pleading “it was a mistake.” “Why should the true God become indignant on account of your voice and have to wreck the work of your hands?” That is just what happened to the prodigal son. -w65 8/1

This may have seemed to be a fairly appropriate lesson for many readers, but the 1965 article only summarized and generalized the points from the 1943 article, and never made it explicitly clear which portions of that original explanation were still in effect.

PURPOSELY VAGUE

Watchtower doctrines are often adjusted gradually over time, and the explanations about what specifically changed and what stayed the same can seem vague. Most who have been Jehovah’s Witnesses for several decades remember times when Witnesses spoke with a much higher level of excitement about “new light” or even “new truths.” There was often a  great build-up of anticipation about ideas to be presented at yearly summer assemblies, or the “new releases.” There have been more times recently when the most important doctrinal changes are focused not so much on what is new, but on a dismissal of a previous teaching (or method of teaching in this case). Because so many of these recent changes can therefore be interpreted as the equivalent of admitting that the previous teaching was wrong, there has been much less “fanfare” about them. Many JW’s claim they saw the biggest change after the 1975 expectations failed.  After that time, it was more common to hear Witnesses say that something wasn’t really that much of a change. You would hear more expressions like: “Well, this is pretty much the same as what we have believed all along, it’s just that it was clarified for us a bit more.”

Notice how the following phrases that introduce these articles from the jw.org site (or from the articles themselves) will often ask a question, but treat the question somewhat rhetorically, or just fail to answer it, leaving it open-ended:

  • Why have our publications in recent years often given simpler, clearer explanations of some Bible accounts? (jw.org)
  • In the past, our publications often mentioned types and antitypes, but in recent years they have seldom done so. (jw.org)
  • Jehovah has helped the “faithful and discreet slave” to become steadily more discreet. Discretion has led to greater caution when it comes to calling a Bible account a prophetic drama unless there is a clear Scriptural basis for doing so. (p. 10)
  • What,though,about the more detailed stories, or parables, that Jesus related? Some, of course, are symbolic and prophetic; others emphasize practical lessons. But which is which? Through the years, the answer has gradually become clearer. (p.11)

FADED MEMORIES OF THINGS PAST

But there’s another problem with changes that happen gradually over time. In the Prodigal Son example, when specific time elements in the recent past were attached to an explanation, it didn’t take long until many new “other sheep” no longer remembered the 1918 speech about how “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” (mentioned in the original article as something that many had personally witnessed).  More and more “other sheep” continued to flock in, but they no longer remembered that there was a time when “other sheep” weren’t even invited to the yearly Memorial celebration. They no longer remember that “other sheep” were once called “Jonadabs” instead of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For years, only those identified with the anointed remnant could be called “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” They don’t remember that there was a time when “other sheep” weren’t  supposed to be “consecrated” (dedicated).

Of course, many of the “other sheep” would say that these were not even their own choices, but were ones that the Watch Tower Society had imposed upon them.

THE PLOT HOLE THICKENS

All the major articles in The Watchtower that covered this explanation — in 1943, in 1965, and in 1989 — apparently had some difficulty with the explanation as to why Jesus’ version of the parable didn’t say whether the jealous elder son ever attended the feast given for the prodigal son. In Jesus’ version of the parable, we can get the impression that the elder son misses out on this joy of his father, by continuing in his jealous sulking. The Watchtower, of course, because of the “fulfillments” assigned to the story, had to assume he finally “came around” after all, and rejoiced with the father, saying that Jesus only left out this part to make us think about what we should do.

In 1943 they concluded:

It would be wrong to say that the parable of the prodigal leaves the “elder son” permanently outside and that he never went in to the feast. … Remember, too, that the elder son was still the father’s sole heir to the property. The younger son, though back with his father, could not claim or touch any of his brother’s inheritance. – w 11/15/1943

However, in 1965 the Watchtower admitted:

But the older son, on approaching the house and being told what was happening, was furious and would not join in. His father entreated him, but he only argued back. … There the story abruptly ends, leaving it open as to the older son’s final reaction. – w 65 2/15/1965

Similarly, in 1989:

Jesus thus leaves unresolved what the older son eventually does. – w89 2/15

The EXPLANATION OF THE EXPLANATIONS

By speaking of these new explanations as “approved” the 2015 Watchtower implies that the older explanations were either less approved or “unapproved.” Therefore, it may cause some embarrassment to notice just how much ink was poured into these prior explanations. The  initial explanation of the Prodigal Son in The Watchtower issues dated November 1st and 15th, 1943 covered nearly 20 full pages and about 20,000 words. But why were they considered to be prophecies in the first place?

The November 1, 1943 explained why parables were actually prophecies:

JEHOVAH inspired many parables, both to illustrate his purpose and to conceal it till the due time. …Such parables were also prophecies which find their fulfillment in happenings of our day that have a connection with the spiritual things of God. In the prophetic Psalms it is written: “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear to a parable [from God] : I will open my dark saying upon the harp.” (Ps. 49: 3, 4) … (Ps. 78: 1-3) This shows that such parable is a prophecy which foretells coming things that have a likeness to or are comparable with the things related in the parable. …

The narrator of this parable was the Lord Jesus on earth. In our day and since his coming to the temple in 1918 the same Lord and King, Christ Jesus, enlightens all those with seeing eyes and hearing ears as to the meaning of the prophecy. By him as the Interpreter at the temple, Jehovah God calls our attention to the physical facts at hand that fulfill the parable. -w43 11/1

As prophecies, these parables and narratives could only be explained in “the due time,” in the “happenings of our day” which had to be especially apparent since 1918. The Watchtower writers were always sure they were living in a time when the Lord was performing an astonishing work through the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. From almost the very beginning, the belief became common that the Scriptures were speaking about them personally. After only a few years of publishing Zion’s Watch Tower, Charles Taze Russell came to believe that he individually was the “faithful and wise servant.” He stopped believing that the “servant” was a “class” and believed it was himself, personally. Therefore, it was his work to feed others through the Watchtower, with spiritual nourishment “at the proper time.” That was his belief until he died in 1916.

When Joseph “Judge” Rutherford took over he immediately began pointing to the time from 1918 and onward as an even more special time for prophetic explanations. Note what he said in a Watchtower issue just 13 years prior to the issue on the Prodigal Son:

[T]he above interpretation of the prophecy is not correct….the true meaning …could not be understood …until after the coming of the Lord to his temple. The foregoing interpretation having been made long before the coming of the Lord to his temple, it is hardly likely that it would be correct. …And furthermore that ‘the God of heaven revealeth secrets of what shall be in the latter days’. (Dan. 2:28, 30) These “latter days” must refer to the “day of the Lord”, which means the time beginning when God places his King upon his holy hill in Zion. (Ps. 2:6) That event occurred in 1914, and surely then the understanding could not be had until after that time. It was after the Lord came to his temple in 1918 that his anointed people began to have a better understanding of the prophecies, because the temple in heaven was opened. (Rev. 11:19) -w30 8/1 p.230

At the time, Rutherford was promoting a new understanding of a prophecy in Daniel, that differed from what Russell had taught. Curiously, that “better understanding” was finally dropped so that The Watchtower has gone back to Russell’s version on this particular subject. Following his logic, the fact that he evidently did not have a better understanding shortly after 1914 should be seen as evidence that the “day of the Lord” did not begin in 1914.

It was a commonly repeated theme from Rutherford about the importance of new explanations since 1918. He also saw it as necessary due to the idea that Russell had a monopoly on “revealed truth.” He desperately needed some revealed truths that were quite different from Russell’s. It would prove that Jehovah was illuminating his Word even after Russell.

Prior to 1915 …. Some who had made a covenant with the Lord induced themselves to believe that the “faithful and wise servant” of Jehovah was one man…. In consequence they stumble into the error that no truth has been revealed by Jehovah to his people since 1916. Such have not seen the revealed truths that have been given to God’s anointed during the past few years and do not now understand present truth… – w30 1/1

Rutherford, was one of those who had continued to teach that Russell had personally been that “faithful slave” but now he needed to prove that he could also represented God’s anointed by presenting “revealed truths.” The new theme of lightning flashes that illuminated truths after the Lord came to his temple was the perfect solution, but it evidently pushed Rutherford to almost desperate attempts to find new meaning that could only be seen after 1918. The same article added:

Former things concerning God’s purposes that did come to pass were understood after the Lord came to his temple and the lightnings of Jehovah illuminated his Word. This same class then see new things which God has declared. In the light of prophecy in the course of fulfilment, and of the further illumination thereof by Jehovah, the remnant class is permitted to see other things that are shortly to follow. – w30 1/1

This had been consistently repeated for years:

Since the Lord came to his temple there have been flashes of lightning; that is to say, intermittent illuminations of the Word of God,… these flashes of light do not emanate from any member of the temple class, but from the Lord. It is Jehovah that is sending out his light and his truth…. – 1928 Yearbook of the I.B.S.A. (now, Jehovah’s Witnesses)

A few things have changed since 1943 (including the 1918 date) but the idea of Jehovah causing lightnings to flash in his holy temple for the benefit of those who write for the Watch Tower publications is still a necessary theme. Just like words of the “Kingdom Song” that was sung in every songbook from 1945 up until 2009:

In God’s holy temple / Lightnings flash and shine / That we may be guided / By His light divine.

It’s clear now that this practice of squeezing out prophetic meanings from parables required some excessive twists and contortions. However, let’s not forget that these new unsubstantiated prophetic meanings were more important than the original meaning of the parable. In 1965 in the Prodigal Son article the idea was included, that these parables only had “a measure of fulfillment” in those places where the Bible had already stated a fulfillment. But the major fulfillment was not the fulfillment given in the Bible itself, but the man-made fulfillment explained for our current time.

There are other prophetic parables that find their fulfillment in this day, “in the conclusion of the system of things”…. All these parables find their fulfillment in “the last days” and all have a common feature. In each case two classes are made manifest, one approved and the other disapproved…It also had a measure of fulfillment when Jesus was on earth, as proved by quotations from it in the Greek Scriptures. … But, as with other prophecies, it finds its major fulfillment in this greatest of all critical periods… – w65 8/1 p.462

These ideas have been accepted by Witnesses without any real question, but if it had never really been true, it gives the appearance of a kind of presumptuousness — a lack of discretion. It removes some of the importance that Jesus himself gave to an illustration or parable, and focuses more importance on private interpretations. Note:

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… (2 Peter 1:20,21)

The inevitable conclusion is that the persons behind such interpretations were not in fact very discreet, yet they claim to have been the “faithful and discreet slave” serving spiritual “food at the proper time.” It raises questions when even the 2015 article itself words it like this:

As we might expect, over the years Jehovah has helped “the faithful and discreet slave”to become steadily more discreet. Discretion has led to greater caution when it comes to calling a Bible account a prophetic dram… — w15 3/15 p.9-10

It’s an odd wording that assumes that one can be called discreet even if they need to be more discreet. What makes it so odd, is that this particular faithful slave claimed to be the only discreet slave, the one judged by Jesus as the most discreet slave on earth (in 1919).

It’s a bit like saying that a mathematician can claim that 2+2=5 and he is called “the correct mathematician.” Then, after many years of claiming that he has suddenly had new mathematical lightning-like flashes of insight, he now claims that 2+2=6 and he spends many decades saying that these new insights prove even more that he is the “only correct mathematician” that should be followed in our time. But now, after years of research the “only correct mathematician” has gone back to 2+2=5 and is therefore even “more correct.

Do the math!

 

The next posted article in this series will discuss the same article from the March 15, 2015 Watchtower by discussing another of the parables mentioned in the article. But rather than just covering the narrative about “Ahab, Jezebel and Naboth” we will cover the larger “Elijah/Elisha” sequence that included the “Ahab/Jezebel/Naboth” narrative as a small part of it — and in much more revealing detail than was revealed in the Watchtower’s article. 

 

 

6 thoughts on ““This Is the Way You Approved”…The Prodigal Son (Wt 3/15/2015) – [1 of 6]”

    1. So by making a prophecy out of simple parables or types the WT Org has gone beyond what is written thus adding to the scriptures for each of these types. These prophecies were originated in God’s name by the WT org and now admitted to be false by the March 15, 2015 WT magazine.

  1. I very much appreciate the in-depth analysis of these articles and the valuable background information concerning your years at Bethel. Thank you for taking the time to engage in such exhaustive research.

    1. Indeed, very impressive research! I’m thinking about writing a focus article based on the same watchtowers you’ve researched to highlight the sentiments about the earthly-hope class. Especially how they were seen to have ‘squandered’ their opportunity.

      Truly looking forward to your further development of this series.

      1. The most recent article posted on Elijah/Elisha touches on same subject further. The February 15, 1918 Watch Tower was quite interesting in this regard. See this article ( https://ad1914.com/way-approved-elijah-elisha-wt-3152015-2-of-6/ ) under the subheading “ELISHA-DO-LITTLE CLASS.” I realize the “humor” of the phrase might be lost. It’s a cross between Eliza Doolittle, a character in a George Bernard Shaw play first produced in 1914, and the fact that Rutherford spoke of the Elisha class as doing little and his own post-1916-Elijah-class being discouraged to do even less by being accused of also being of the Elisha class by the opposition. I found that article to be rather amazing. I was told by my table head at Bethel that the supposed “electrified hush” that came over the crowd in the 1935 Washington D.C. assembly, was actually “shock.” Some were re-volted. (Good thing it was D.C. not A.C.)

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