(WDGR LESSON 14: “How Jehovah’s Witnesses are Organized?”)
Does Jehovah God lead His people through an organization? What does history reveal? Does the Watchtower’s “Governing Body” arrangement follow first-century Christianity?
KAREN: Cindy, as we’ve been studying in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us?, I’ve noticed that often the interpretation that the Watchtower gives for certain Bible verses is different than the interpretation I’ve heard in other Christian groups. Since there are so many ways to interpret the Bible, how can I determine which interpretation I should trust? How do I know that I should trust the Watchtower’s interpretation over what I’ve heard in other Christian religions?
CINDY: Well, Karen, just as this brochure notes, “The Bible foretold that after the death of the apostles, wrong teachings and unchristian practices would slowly come into the Christian congregation. Men would draw away believers to follow them instead of Christ.…That is why we see so many different religions that claim to be Christian.”1. But the Watchtower book Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life explains that while “religion has left multitudes starving for wholesome spiritual food, spiritually speaking, however, Jehovah God is now furnishing food, clothing, and shelter.”2. How do you think Jehovah is doing this, Karen?
KAREN: I’m not sure, Cindy. Didn’t Jesus say that He would be with Christians forever?3. And didn’t He say at Matthew 16:18, that He would build His church; “and the gates of Hades would not overpower it”?4. If the Christian congregation has become so apostate that it has stopped giving spiritual food at the proper time, why does the Bible say at Ephesians 3:21 “To Him be the glory in the church…to all generations forever and ever”? 5.
CINDY: You’re right, Karen. Even though Christendom as a whole has become apostate, Jehovah has always had His true followers on the earth. For example, the Watchtower Knowledge book explains how “…the Israelites were ‘Jehovah’s congregation’ for some 1,500 years..…In the first century C.E. Jehovah brought forth the Christian organization. Congregations were formed, and they functioned under the direction of a governing body made up of apostles and older men.…Likewise today, Jehovah deals with his people through an organized body.…Jesus said that at the time of his presence in Kingdom power, ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ would be found providing ‘food at the proper time’ for His followers.…When Jesus was installed as heavenly king in 1914, who did this ‘slave’ prove to be?”6.
KAREN: Cindy, is the Society saying that in 1914, Jesus appointed them to be the faithful slave that would provide spiritual “food at the proper time” to Jehovah’s people?
CINDY: That’s right, Karen. Just as we are studying today in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us?, “Jehovah’s Witnesses had their modern-day start in the 1870’s.…From small beginnings the organization has grown to millions of Witnesses, who are busy preaching in more than 230 lands.”7. Don’t you think this is evidence that the Watchtower organization is God’s organization?
KAREN: Cindy, did you know that evangelical Christian ministries network across denominational lines in sending missionaries to literally hundreds of countries throughout the world? If the fact that 6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses preach in over 230 countries is to be viewed as evidence that they are God’s organization, then wouldn’t we also have to admit that Christendom is being used of Jehovah because they are preaching in even more countries than Jehovah’s Witnesses are?
CINDY: Well, no, Karen, not every religion that claims to be Christian has a form of worship that is acceptable to Jehovah. The June 1, 2001 issue of The Watchtower notes that the fact “that Jehovah’s Witnesses are stronger and more active now than ever before—and this in the face of worldwide opposition—is proof that Jehovah finds pleasure in what they are doing.”8. You see, Karen, “Jesus forewarned his followers: ‘If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also;’.…Ask yourself, ‘What religious group is noted for sticking closely to God’s Word, even when its teachings differ from the beliefs of most people?…And despite all of these positive things, who are still looked down on, ridiculed, and persecuted?’ ”9.
KAREN: Cindy, the June 4th, 2001 issue of the “Mission Network News” reported that “local authorities in three Mexican states have told evangelical Christians to change their religion or suffer severe consequences. Many of the religious conflicts in Mexico stem from evangelicals’ refusal to participate in town festivals.…[because they] usually include activities that evangelicals find unacceptable.” The report went on to note that despite religious persecution, “evangelicals in Mexico presently number approximately 4.6 million” with “some 120,000” currently undergoing persecution in some form or another. And Mexico isn’t the only country where evangelicals are growing despite persecution. “Open Doors International” reports that while in Nigeria “the Church numbers more than 50 million.…churches have been the target of the Muslim community with many martyrs over the past 18 years. Between 1982 and 1996 alone some 600 Christians were killed and 200 churches burned.” The same is true for Indonesia where “there are now 25 million Christians and it is said to be growing at the rate of 5% per annum. Riots are the order of the day and many Christians have been targeted. [But] the Church is growing despite persecution.” Cindy, if the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are growing in spite of persecution “is proof that Jehovah finds pleasure in what they are doing,” then wouldn’t we also have to agree that Jehovah finds pleasure in what evangelical Christians are doing, because they continue to grow in many countries in spite of severe opposition to their faith?
CINDY: Well, no, Karen. The Watchtower Knowledge book notes that at Matthew 24:45-47 “Jesus said that at the time of his presence in Kingdom power, ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ would be found providing ‘food at the proper time’ for His followers.…When Jesus was installed as heavenly King in 1914, who did this ‘slave’ prove to be? Certainly not the clergy of Christendom. For the most part, they were feeding their flocks propaganda that backed up their own national governments in World War I.”10.
KAREN: Cindy, would you read the statement the Watchtower Society made regarding the time period of World War I, found on page 15 of the June 15, 1987 issue of The Watchtower?
CINDY: OK. “When ‘the true Lord’ came to the spiritual temple…shortly after the Kingdom was set up in heaven in 1914, what did Jehovah find?…He found the remnant in need of refining and cleansing. For example, The Watch Tower had encouraged its readers to set aside May 30, 1918, as a day of prayer for victory for the democratic powers.…This amounted to a violation of Christian neutrality.”
KAREN: Cindy, what did the Society say Jehovah’s Witnesses were doing when Jesus inspected them during World War I?
CINDY: Well, it says that they were violating “Christian neutrality” by inciting their brothers to pray for the democratic powers to win World War I, but at least, Karen, they weren’t participating in the war effort like Christendom was.
KAREN: I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Cindy. The February 15, 1996 issue of The Watchtower notes that “during the World War I period, the remnant of spiritual Israel had not kept entirely clean and aligned with God’s will. Some of them were spotted with doctrinal errors and compromised by not taking a clear stand for Jehovah when put under pressure to support the warring nations.”11. In fact, Cindy, the May 15th and June 1st issues of the 1918 Watch Tower encouraged Jehovah’s Witnesses to purchase “Liberty Bonds” which aided the country in funding World War I. So how can the Watchtower Society claim that when Jesus inspected them in 1914, they fulfilled the qualifications to be the “faithful and discreet slave” when they—like Christendom—supported the war not only with their prayers but with their finances as well? What’s the difference between personally killing people in war and paying someone else to go to war and kill people in your place?
CINDY: OK, Karen. So maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses weren’t as neutral as they should have been in 1914, but at least they had a form of worship that was more acceptable to Jehovah God than other religions of Christendom. For example, they didn’t believe in the pagan doctrines of the Trinity, hell fire, and the immortality of the human soul, and they preached the Kingdom and taught that God’s name is Jehovah.
KAREN: Cindy, the religion of the “Christadelphians” was “founded in America in 1848.” So they have been around 30 years longer than Jehovah’s Witnesses. They reject the doctrine of the Trinity and immortality of the human soul, have no part in politics and war, and like Jehovah’s Witnesses, they preach the Kingdom and have no paid ministers.12. Not only did Christadelphians exist during the time of Jesus’ inspection in 1914, but Advent Christians have been around since 1861 and teach many of the doctrines Jehovah’s Witnesses teach regarding the unconscious condition of the dead and the hope of the righteous entering “an endless life upon the earth.”13. Since there were other groups that by these standards would have qualified to be appointed as the faithful slave during Christ’s inspection in 1914, how do you know that Jesus chose Jehovah’s Witnesses over these other groups? Can you show me one thing that proves Jehovah’s Witnesses were more acceptable to Jehovah God than these other groups?
CINDY: Well, Karen, unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians don’t believe that Satan is a person and they do not recognize that Christ’s presence in Kingdom power began in 1914.14. The Adventist, on the other hand, recognized Christ’s presence, but they miscalculated the time of His presence and taught that it occurred in 1844 instead of 1914.15. So you see, Karen, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only ones that met the test of being the faithful slave.
KAREN: Cindy, you bring up a good point regarding Christadelphians rejecting the personality of Satan, and the Adventist’s miscalculation of prophetic dates, but if we are going to compare Christadelphians and Adventists to Jehovah’s Witnesses during that time period, we have to consider the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses taught many false doctrines as well—including faulty application of certain dates (such as 1914, 1918, and 1925) and strange interpretation of many of the passages of Revelation and Ezekiel16.. Not only did Jehovah’s Witnesses “go beyond the things that are written”17 in their inaccurate interpretation of Scripture during that time, but the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses admits that during that time “the idea adopted by many was that C.T. Russell himself was the ‘faithful and wise servant.’ This led some into the snare of creature worship.”18. “The Watch Tower itself set forth this view for a number of years.”19. Cindy, which is worse: An inaccurate view of Satan, or creature worship of a man as the “faithful and discreet slave”?
CINDY: I’m not sure, Karen.
KAREN: Cindy, at Matthew 24 verses 11 and 23-24, Jesus warns that in the last days, “false prophets will arise” and will proclaim that his Kingdom presence began when it hadn’t. For 50 years—from 1879 to 1929—Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaimed Christ’s presence began in 1874—not in 1914 like they now teach.20. Since Jesus warned that false prophets would proclaim a false date for His presence, why would He anoint a group of people to represent Jehovah God that were doing the very thing He warned His followers about at Matthew 24?
CINDY: That’s a good question, Karen, I really don’t know.
KAREN: Cindy, within that period of 50 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses died believing that false date for Christ’s presence. What are they going to say when they stand before Jehovah God and He asks them, “Why didn’t you heed the words of My Son Jesus at Matthew 24 which warned about false prophets that would proclaim a false date for Christ’s presence?”
CINDY: I don’t know, Karen. But if the Watchtower Society isn’t the “faithful and discreet slave,” then who do you think is?
KAREN: That’s a good question, Cindy. Can we talk about that next week?
CINDY: Sure Karen, I’ll be here.
1. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 26:2
2. Knowledge That Leads to Eternal Life, 1995, p. 160:2
3. Matthew 18:20
4. Matthew 16:18, New American Standard Bible
5. New American Standard Bible
6. Knowledge That Leads to Eternal Life, pp. 160-161
7. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 28:1
8. The Watchtower, June 1, 2001, p. 17
9. The Watchtower, June 1, 2001, p. 15-16
10. Knowledge That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 161
11. The Watchtower, February 15, 1996, p. 14
12. A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, edited by SGF Brandon MA DD (NW: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), p. 190; The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, edited by John Bowker (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 216
13. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. I, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967), p. 56
14. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,vol.III,p.38
15. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. I, p. 56
16. See The Finished Mystery, 1917, pp. 60, 84-85, 103, 128, 188-189, 230, 485
17. 1 Corinthians 4:6, New World Translation
18. 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 88
19. Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, p. 626
20. See Jehovah’s Witnesses Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, pp. 133-134; Prophecy, 1929, p. 65