In our last video we examined the question
asked of Jesus by four of his apostles as recorded at Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:2, and Luke
21:7. We learned that they wanted to know when the things he had prophesied – specifically
the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple – would come to pass. We also saw that they
expected the kingdom of God (Christ’s presence or parousia) to begin at that time. This
expectation is corroborated by their question to the Lord just prior to his ascension.
“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 BSB)
We know that Jesus understood the heart of man very well. He understood the weakness
of the flesh. He understood the eagerness that his disciples felt for the arrival of
his kingdom. He understood how vulnerable humans are to being misled. He would soon
be killed and so no longer be there to guide and protect them. His opening words in answer
to their question reflect all of this, for he did not start out with a direct answer
to their question, but rather he chose the opportunity to warn them about the dangers
that would confront and challenge them. These warnings are recorded by all three writers.
(See Matthew 24:4-14; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19) In each case, the first words he utters are: “See to it that no one deceives you.”
(Matthew 24:4 BSB) “Take heed, lest anyone mislead you.”
(Mark 13:5 BLB) “Watch out that you are not deceived.”
(Luke 21:8 NIV) He then tells them who will do the misleading. Luke says it best in my opinion.
“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 is near.’ Do not go after them.” (Luke
21:8 NWT) Personally, I am guilty of ‘going after
them’. My indoctrination began in infancy. I was unwittingly impelled by misplaced trust
in the men leading the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I tied my salvation to them. I
believed I was saved by remaining within the organization they directed. But ignorance
is no excuse for disobedience, nor do good intentions allow one to escape the consequences
of one’s actions. The Bible clearly tells us not ‘to trust in nobles and the son of
earthling man for our salvation’. (Psalm 146:3) I managed to ignore that command by
reasoning that it applied to the “wicked” men outside the organization.
Men told me in print and from the platform that “the due time is near,” and I believed
it. These men are still proclaiming this message. Based on a ridiculous reworking
of their generation doctrine based on Matthew 24:34 and an overreaching application of Exodus
1:6, they are again claiming from the convention platform that ‘the end is imminent’.
They’ve been doing this for over 100 years and will not give it up.
Why do you think that is? Why go to such ludicrous extremes to keep a failed doctrine alive?
Control, plain and simple. It is hard to control people who are not afraid. If they fear
something and see you as the solution to the problem—their protectors, as it were—they
will give you their allegiance, their obedience, their services, and their money.
The false prophet relies on instilling fear in his audience, which is precisely why we
are told not to fear him. (De 18:22) Nevertheless, there are consequences to losing
your fear of the false prophet. He will get angry with you. Jesus said that those
who speak his truth will be persecuted, and that “wicked men and impostors will advance
from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:13)
Advancing from bad to worse. Hmm, but doesn’t that ring true?
The Jews who returned from Babylon were chastened. They never again returned to the idolatrous
worship that had brought God’s disfavor upon them. Yet, they did not remain pure,
but advanced from bad to worse, even to the point of demanding that the Romans kill the
son of God. Let us not be fooled into thinking that wicked
men are manifestly so, or even that they are aware of their own wickedness. Those men—priests,
scribes, and Pharisees—were seen as the holiest and most learned of God’s people.
They considered themselves to be the best, the finest, the most pure of all God’s worshippers.
(John 7:48, 49) But they were liars, as Jesus said, and like the best of liars, they got
to believing their own lies. (John 8:44) They not only misled others, but were misled themselves—by
their own story, their own narrative, their own self-image.
If you love truth and love honesty, it is very difficult to wrap your mind around the
concept that someone can act wickedly and seem to be unaware of the fact; that a person can cause harm to others—even the most vulnerable, even little children—while actually believing he is doing the will of the God of love. (John 16:2; 1 John 4:8)
Perhaps when you first read the new interpretation of Matthew 24:34, the so-called doctrine of
overlapping generations, you realized that they were just making stuff up. Perhaps you
thought, why would they teach something that is so transparently false? Did they really
think the brothers would just swallow this down without a question?
When we first learned that the Organization that we esteemed so highly as God’s chosen
people had engaged in a 10-year-long affiliation with the United Nations, the image of the
wild beast, we were shocked. They only got out of it when they were exposed in a newspaper
article. They excused this as necessary to get a library card. Remember, that it is
adultery with the wild beast that condemns Babylon the Great.
Imagine telling your wife, “Oh, honey, I just bought a membership in the town brothel,
but only because they have a really good library that I need access to.”
How could they do such a stupid thing? Did they not realize that eventually those committing
adultery always get caught red handed? Recently, we’ve learned that the Governing
Body is willing to spend millions of dollars to keep from revealing a list of thousands
of child abusers. Why do they care about protecting the identity of wicked men so much
that they would waste millions of dollars of dedicated funds on the endeavour? These
do not appear to be the righteous actions of men who claim to be both faithful and discreet.
The Bible speaks of men who become “empty-headed in their reasonings” and that while “claiming
they are wise, they become foolish.” It speaks of God giving such men up to a “disapproved
mental state”. (Romans 1:21, 22, 28) “Empty headed reasonings”, “foolishness”,
“disapproved mental state”, “advancing from bad to worse”—as you look at the
current state of the Organization, do you see a correlation with what the Bible speaks
of? The Bible is full of such warnings and Jesus’
answer to his disciples’ question is no exception.
But it is not only false prophets that he warns us about. It is also our own inclination
to read prophetic significance into catastrophic events. Earthquakes are a fact of nature and
occur regularly. Pestilences, famines and wars are all recurring events and are the
product of our imperfect human nature. Yet, desperate for relief from suffering, we might
be inclined to read into these things more than is there.
Therefore, Jesus continues by saying, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not
be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise
against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places,
as well as famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” (Mark 13:7, 8 BSB)
“The end is still to come.” “These are the beginning of birth pains.” “Do
not be alarmed.” Some have tried to turn these words into what
they call “a composite sign”. The disciples only asked for a single sign. Jesus never
speaks of multiple signs or a composite sign. He never says that wars, earthquakes, pestilences,
or famines are signs of his imminent arrival. Instead, he warns his disciples to not be
alarmed and assures them that when they see such things, the end is not yet.
In the 14th and 15th century, Europe was embroiled in what is called the Hundred Years’
War. During that war, the Bubonic Plague broke out and killed anywhere from 25% to 60% of
the population of Europe. It went beyond Europe and decimated the populations of China, Mongolia,
and India. It was arguably, the worst pandemic of all time. Christians thought the end of
the world had come; but we know it didn’t. They were easily misled because they ignored
Jesus’ warning. We can’t really blame them, because back then the Bible was not
readily available to the masses; but that is not the case in our day.
In 1914, the world fought the bloodiest war in history—at least to that point. This
was the first industrialized war—machine guns, tanks, airplanes. Millions died.
Then came the Spanish Influenza and millions more died. All of this made the ground fertile
for Judge Rutherford’s prediction that Jesus would return in 1925, and many of the Bible
students of the day ignored Jesus’ warning and ‘went after him’. He made “an
ass” of himself—his words—and for that and other reasons by 1930, only about 25%
of the Bible student groups that were still affiliated with the Watchtower Bible and Tract
Society continued to be with Rutherford. Have we learned our lesson? For many, yes,
but not all. I get correspondence all the time from sincere Bible students who are still
trying to decipher God’s chronology. These still believe that World War I holds some
prophetic significance. How is that possible? Notice how the New World Translation renders
Matthew 24:6, 7: “You are going to hear of wars and reports
of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for these things must take place, but the end
is not yet. 7 “For nation will rise against nation
and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place
after another. 8 All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”
There was no paragraph break in the original. The translator inserts the paragraph break
and is guided by his understanding of Scripture. This is how doctrinal bias creeps into Bible
translation. Starting this paragraph off with the preposition
“for” gives the impression that verse seven is a break from verse 6. It might
lead the reader to accept the thought that Jesus is saying not to get misled by any rumours
of wars, but to watch out for global war. Global war is the sign, they conclude.
Not so. The word in Greek translated “for” is gar and
according to Strong’s Concordance, it means “for, indeed, (a conjunction used to express
cause, explanation, inference, or continuation).” Jesus is not introducing a contrasting thought,
but rather is expanding on his premise not to be startled by wars. What he is saying—and
the Greek grammar bears this out—is nicely rendered by the Good News Translation in more
contemporary language: “You are going to hear the noise of battles
close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen,
but they do not mean that the end has come. Countries will fight each other; kingdoms
will attack one another. There will be famines and earthquakes everywhere. All these things
are like the first pains of childbirth. (Matthew 24:6-8 GNT)
Now I know that some are going to take exception to what I’m saying here and are going to
respond vehemently to defend their interpretation. I ask only that you first consider the hard
facts. C. T. Russell wasn’t the first to come up with theories based on these and
related verses. In fact, I recently interviewed Historian James Penton and learned that such
prognostications have been going on for centuries. (By the way, I’ll be releasing the Penton
interview soon.) There is a saying that goes, “The definition
of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
How often are we going to fixate on Jesus’ words and turn his words of warning into the
very thing he was warning us against? Now, you may think that we all have the right
to believe what we want; that “live and let live” should be our byword. After
the restrictions we’ve endured within the organization, that seems like a reasonable
idea, but having lived with one extreme for decades, let’s not whiplash over to the
other extreme. Critical thought is not restrictive, but neither is it licentious nor permissive.
Critical thinkers want the truth. So, if someone comes to you with personal
interpretation on prophetic chronology, remember Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples when they
asked him if he was restoring the Kingdom of Israel at that time. “He said to them:
‘It does not belong to you to know the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his
own jurisdiction.’” (Ac 1:7) Let’s dwell on that for a moment. Following
the attacks of 9/11, the United States government instituted what it calls, “No Fly Zones”.
You fly anywhere near the White House or the Freedom Tower in New York and you’re likely
to get blown out of the sky. Those areas are now under the government’s jurisdiction.
You have no right to intrude. Jesus is telling us that knowing when he’ll
come as king does not belong to us. This is not our possession. We have no rights here.
What happens if we take something that is not ours? We suffer the consequences. This
is no game, as history has proven. However, Father doesn’t punish us for intruding into
his domain. The punishment is built right into the equation, you see? Yes, we punish
ourselves—and those who follow us. This punishment results when foretold events fail
to come true. Lives are wasted pursuing a vain hope. Great disillusionment follows.
Anger. And sadly, all too often, a loss of faith results. This is the consequence
of lawlessness that results from presumptuousness. Jesus predicted this as well. Jumping ahead
momentarily, we read: “And many false prophets will arise and
lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow
cold.” (Matthew 24:11, 12 ESV) So, if someone comes to you presuming to have
decoded the secrets of God and to have access to hidden knowledge, do not go after them.
This is not me talking. This is the warning of our Lord. I didn’t heed that warning
when I should have. So, I am speaking from experience here.
Yet some will say, “But didn’t Jesus tell us that everything would happen in a generation?
Didn’t he tell us that we could see it coming as we see the leaves budding that foretell
summer is near?” Such ones are referring to verses 32 to 35 of Matthew 24. We will
get to that in good time. But bear in mind that Jesus does not contradict himself, nor
mislead. He tells us in verse 15 of this same chapter, “Let the reader use discernment,”
and that is precisely what we are going to do.
For now, let us move on to the next verses in Matthew’s account. From the English
Standard Version we have: (Matthew 24:9-11, 13) “Then they will deliver
you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my
name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray…But the one who endures to the
end will be saved.” (Mark 13:9, 11-13) “But be on your guard.
For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and
you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them….
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what
you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak,
but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his
child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be
hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
(Luke 21:12-19) “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute
you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings
and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle
it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give
you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some
of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not
a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
What are the common elements from these three accounts?
Persecution will come. We will be hated.
Even those nearest and dearest will turn against us.
We will stand before kings and governors. We will bear witness by the power of Holy
Spirit. We will gain salvation through endurance.
We are not to be afraid, because we have been forewarned.
You may have noticed that I’ve left a couple of verses out. That is because I want to deal
with them specifically due to their controversial nature; but before getting to that, I would
like you to consider this: Up to this point, Jesus has yet to answer the question the disciples
put to him. He has spoken about wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, false prophets, false
Christs, persecutions, and bearing witness even before rulers, but he has given them
no sign. Over the past 2,000 years, have there not
been wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences? From Jesus’ day down to ours, have not false
prophets and false anointed ones or Christs misled many? Have not true disciples of
Christ been persecuted for the past two millennia, and have they not born witness before rulers?
His words are not confined to a particular time period, neither to the first century,
nor to our day. These warnings have been and will continue to be relevant until the
last Christian goes to his or her reward. Speaking for myself, I never knew persecution
throughout my life until I proclaimed myself publicly for the Christ. It was only when
I put the Word of the Christ ahead of the word of men that I had friends turn on me,
and hand me over to the rulers of the Organization. Many of you have experienced the same thing
I have, and far worse. I have not yet had to face real kings and governors, yet in some
ways, that would have been easier. Being hated by someone for whom you have no natural
affection is hard in one way, but it pales by comparison to having those who are dear
to you, even family members, children or parents, turn on you and treat you with hatred. Yes,
I think that is the toughest test of all. Now, to deal with those verses I skipped over.
Verse 10 of Mark 13 reads: “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.”
Luke makes no mention of these words, but Matthew adds to them and in doing so provides
a verse that Jehovah’s Witnesses fixate on as proof that they alone are God’s chosen
people. Reading from the New World Translation: “And this good news of the Kingdom will
be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the
end will come.” (Mt 24:14) Just how important is this verse to the mind
of a Jehovah’s Witness? I will tell you from repeated personal encounters. You can
talk about the hypocrisy of the UN membership. You can show the abysmal record of countless
instances where the organization has put its name above the welfare of the little ones
by covering over child sexual abuse. You can point out that their doctrines are from
men and not from God. Yet, all this gets sidelined by the rebuttal question: “But
who else is doing the preaching work? Who else is giving a witness to all the nations?
How can the preaching work be carried out without an organization?”
Even when acknowledging the many shortcomings of the Organization, many Witnesses seem to
believe that Jehovah will overlook everything, or fix everything in his due time, but that
he will not take his spirit away from the one organization on earth that is fulfilling
the prophetic words of Matthew 24:14. A proper understanding of Matthew 24:14 is
so important to helping our Witness brethren to see their true role in the outworking of
Father’s purpose that to do it justice, we’ll leave this for our next video consideration.
Again, thank you for watching. I would also like to thank those who are supporting us
financially. Your donations have helped to defray the costs of continuing to produce
these videos and to lighten our load.