What Jehovah’s Witness in his right mind says something like, “You know, there are people who accuse Jehovah’s Witness of being false prophets.” My Witness friend has no way of knowing this yet, but I have studied the false prophecies of the Watchtower extensively. There is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to ignore an invitation like that.
We chatted for about 40 minutes before getting into the “Teach” book. We picked up on page 25 which speaks a little bit about prophecy. He explained how important prophecy is to him in proving the Bible reliable and then asked me what I thought about prophecy.
KW: I see prophecy as “history in advance.”
Here was my opening. I wanted to nail the Watchtower for its NUMEROUS false prophecies, but I can’t. At this point, there is no way I could give examples of their false prophecies without raising his suspicions so what I do instead is give examples of other groups which are guilty of the same thing and then point my finger at them. This allows my friend to feel safe, yet at the same time see the problem with those who make false predictions.
KW: I think you already know this, but I am very critical of certain TV preachers. When they say things like, “God told me this,” or “God revealed this” or “God directed this” or God’s message to you is this,” I take that very seriously. Anything that is attributed to God, and I see Him as the God of truth, if the information comes from God, then there can’t be any mistake in what God says. Now if someone claims that something is going to happen in God’s name or by His authority, and it doesn’t happen, then we know that the message did not originate with God.
As I was speaking, I kept pausing because I was thinking long and hard about what to do next. I shot up an “arrow prayer” like what we talked about a couple of weeks ago and decided to go for the big gun.
KW: There is a passage in Deuteronomy 18 that explains that if someone declares a future event in God’s name and it doesn’t happen, and when they proclaim it in God’s name, I think they have to say, “Thus saith the Lord” or anything like that. If they are saying something by His authority, then it has to come true. It has to. If it doesn’t, then we only have two options. Either God didn’t know what He was talking about or this person has misrepresented God. I prefer the latter option.
Because God is all-knowing, that is how He can know, “history in advance.” He is a timeless being. You’ll never hear God say, “Oh my Me, I’m late.” In my view, God sees it all as if it were now. So for Him to predict something, it has to come true. We can’t have God saying one thing at one time and then claim that God’s view changes later on. I have a serious problem with those kinds of issues.
I think that is why I was really concerned about that July 15th Watchtower we looked at a few weeks back that used Matthew 4:4 as a reference for why we should believe what the Watchtower was saying. If there is a mistake there, and it looks like here was because they had to change a view, then that is not God. They are taking God’s name in vain by saying something that God did not say. Deuteronomy 18 is very, very clear about what is supposed to happen to people who do that.
That is why I really wanted to understand from your perspective how they could claim something came from God when it really didn’t end up coming from God. Regardless of whether the information supposedly coming from God is a teaching or if He is prophesying things to come, if our source is God, then it is truth and it can’t change. So that is what I think about prophecy.
My friend chuckled because I think I gave him much more of an answer than he was looking for. He agreed with me that God does not change. I wanted to go deeper into incriminating the Watchtower so I again brought up an example of a conversation I once had with another Jehovah’s Witness. I didn’t want to tell my elder friend that the conversation was with another Witness so I spoke in generalities.
KW: I’ve talked with people about this issue before. One friend of mine belonged to a group that taught the end of the world at specific times. His excuse for the failed prophecy was that they had more information now. I challenged him to define a false prophet in a way that a false prophet couldn’t use the same excuse that my friend gave concerning his group. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 18.
We looked up the passage and I read verses 18-12 aloud.
KW: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
As I was reading the passage, I remembered a recent false prophecy from Harold Camping, a famous radio preacher who prophesied the end of the world for May 21st 2011. I thought it was a perfect example to use with my Witness friend. After talking about Camping I would then get back to the subject of my conversation with my other Witness friend.
KW: Do you remember a couple of years ago a guy name Harold Camping made a prophecy about the end of the world?
JW: No. I don’t know who that is.
KW: In May of 2011 Camping predicted and end of the world. They bought billboards and put signs on vehicles. They claimed that the end of the world was going to happen and obviously it didn’t. The Monday following the false prophecy Camping had a press conference.
JW: What did they say?
KW: I listened to the whole thing and he was saying things like, “God arranged the campaign.” My question was, why would God arrange a campaign for a false prophecy? He was also saying things like, “This is God’s view, but we just misunderstood it.” But if it was God’s view, then the end of the world should have happened. The fact of the matter is, if it didn’t come true, then it isn’t God’s view and never was. The Bible itself says that we will not know the time. Did Camping consider himself a false prophet? No, he just thought he had wrong information.
Getting back to the conversation a number of years ago with my friend, he was trying to tell me that even though his religion had made a clear prophecy, they just made a mistake and weren’t guilty of false prophecy. I asked my friend, “How can we identify a false prophet if anyone can use the excuse of, “Well, I just had wrong information.”
KW: Anybody could say that! So this test in Deuteronomy 18 doesn’t mean anything because anyone can use the excuse that they had the wrong information or that God updated truth or whatever.
JW: The Bible talks about false prophecies in other passages too. In Matthew 24 Jesus tells us to watch out for false prophets.
KW: Exactly. God gives us this test in Deuteronomy 18 for a reason. I challenged my friend back then to give me a definition of a false prophet in such a way that the false prophet could not use the excuse of just having wrong information. He couldn’t do it because he was more committed to his religion than he was to God and I think that is pretty sad.
I expected that this was going to be the end of our conversation about false prophecy because he was getting pretty nervous, but then my Witness friend did something that completely surprised me.
JW: We have been considered false prophets too.
WHAT?! Really, did he just say that? My Witness friend didn’t just open a door to talk about the false prophecy of the Watchtower, he kicked it in.
KW: What do you mean?
JW: Before I studied with the Witnesses, and I don’t have all of the facts because I was young at the time, but 1975 was a date that some Witnesses thought was going to be Armageddon. I didn’t find out about this until much later. There was also one about 1914. Some people read into it too much and thought that the end of the world was going to come, but that is not what the society said.
There was a magazine not too long ago, I’ll have find it for you. It said that some brothers read too much into things and that they hoped something might happen that year although there was no scriptural basis for it.
KW: If there is one thing I’ve learned from you about Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is that they tend to believe the same things. My question would be, if there were a number of people looking at 1975 and thinking that it was going to be the end of the world, then I would have a hard time believing that those people came up with that idea all by themselves.
My friend was stunned at the simplicity of that thought. If the Watchtower dictates that all Witnesses must believe the same things, then how is it that only some Witnesses believed in 1975, and where did they get the idea in the first place?
JW: I don’t know how it came up. I can’t comment on that because it was before I ever heard about it.
My Witness friend was starting to get nervous.
JW: When I was a kid, the question of 1975 never came up. When I found out about it later, I asked, “Why, why 1975?” Later on I talked to an elder and he told me that those who did believe it, just swallowed it and kept going.
KW: That would be a problem for me.
JW: Some people turned away.
KW: How are they viewed, the people who turn away?
My friend did not want to answer that question. He knows full well that the Watchtower teaches that there is no legitimate reason for leaving the organization. Ever. Anyone who does leave, regardless of the reason, is considered an apostate.
JW: They separate themselves.
KW: Right, but do think we good thoughts about these people or do we say that they are unfaithful?
JW: I’m not a judge of that.
KW: What would most Jehovah’s Witnesses think about those people?
JW: That they had fallen away.
KW: Okay, that they are unfaithful.
KW: That concerns me because if the organization really did make prophecies about 1975, then those people who left are demonstrating that they don’t want to be fooled again so they leave and join another religion or none at all.
JW: But if the Watchtower did make those statements, then everyone would have believed it.
KW: That concerns me too.
JW: But they didn’t make those statements. I’m going to look for that article.
KW: Yeah, I would like to read it.
JW: I’ll look for it.
KW: What would you do? If they really said something about 1975…
JW: (Interrupting) But they didn’t.
KW: IF. We are talking about if here, for the sake of argument. If they really did, and obviously you didn’t know about it then, but you find out about it next week. If they really did it, what would you do?
JW: I can’t really say because that’s not what happened.
KW: If. Come on buddy.
JW: (Semi mockingly) If, if, if.
KW: Yes, if. This is serious.
JW: (Laughing) No! You might think it is serious, but they haven’t said anything like that.
KW: But if they did…
JW: That is besides the point…
I started to laugh at this point. My Witness friend was so uncomfortable talking about this that he was trying to make light of the issue.
KW: (Laughing) That is the point!
JW: No, no.
KW: If they did, would you be loyal to an organization that says, “Oh we made a mistake,” or would you be loyal to God’s Word in Deuteronomy 18 which says, “Get away from him.”
JW: Jesus said some outrageous things. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Some people turned away from Him. Jesus then asks Peter if he is going to turn away too. Peter said, “Where to? Only you have the words of everlasting life.”
KW: You are equating the organization with Jesus. Peter didn’t ask “Where should we go?” He asked, “To Whom should we go?” I’m not talking about leaving Jesus. I’m talking about leaving the organization.
JW: Let’s just get to the bottom line, the way I see things. If you want to join the religion that has God’s approval, then it has to be something close to the teachings of the first century Christians.
KW: I agree.
My Witness friend started talking about not celebrating birthdays and holidays and various other marks of the “true religion.” I pointed out to him that he is begging the question because all of those marks have been defined by the organization in the first place. The circular reasoning goes like this;
The Watchtower is God’s approved religion.
How do we know?
Because they don’t do X, Y and Z.
What is wrong with X,Y and Z.
God forbids it.
How do we know God forbids it?
The Watchtower says so.
Why do we believe the Watchtower?
You can’t question God’s only approved organization.
JW: If there was a statement about 1975, then it is better to admit that you made the mistake.
KW: But who made the mistake?
JW: Look at the Pope. He is supposed to be infallible.
KW: I’m not Catholic! But think about this for a second. If Jesus was a false prophet, I wouldn’t follow Him. I’d have to find another religion or something else to believe because if He is a false prophet, then He is a sinner. If He is a sinner, then He couldn’t have died for my sins.
I’m willing to go that far and say that this false prophecy issue is that important. If Jesus was a false prophet, I can’t have anything to do with the man. Why? Because I have to be faithful with what God already said in Deuteronomy 18.
The same thing goes for Catholics. If the Pope is a false prophet, then it would be futile to remain in Catholicism. If I was a Catholic, I’d have to find something else. Why? Because the man is a false prophet.
KW: That is where my loyalty is. My loyalty is to what God’s Word says, not to what some organization, the Catholic Church or whatever. It is to what God’s Word says, not what an organization says God’s Word says. There is a big difference between what the Bible says and what someone says the Bible says.
If I was a Catholic and I found out that the Pope was a false prophet and that it could be demonstrated that he is, then I would have to leave that organization. My loyalty to God would dictate me leaving the Catholic Church. God could not be leading that organization if the head of it is a false prophet. That just doesn’t make sense.
JW: I’m going to look for that article, but it will not be easy to find. I’ll have to look it up on the Watchtower Library CD-rom. I wouldn’t know what key word to use.
KW: Key words would be “prophecy, end of the world, 1975, false hopes, dates, false prophecy…
JW: Dates, that would be a good one… NO, not false prophecy!
We both laughed hard at that. He pointed his finger at me like I was trying to get away with something and he caught me. I was very pleased that he was laughing about it and not getting upset. I laughed so hard I actually had tears in my eyes.
I wasn’t trying to insult him by suggesting false prophecy as a search word. I explained that if a Watchtower magazine addressed the idea that other people called them false prophets, then “false prophecy” would be a good term to use to find that article. He agreed with me and again reiterated that he would look for the article.
We got back into the “Teach” book and read the rest of the chapter. I reserved commenting until we got to paragraph 19 which states, “Reading God’s ‘word,’ or message, in the Bible can change our life. It can help us to examine ourselves as never before. We may claim to love God, but how we react to what his inspired Word, the Bible, teaches will reveal our true thoughts, even the very intentions of the heart.” I highlighted that paragraph months ago when I first read the chapter because I wanted to make sure to draw comparison between what is said and what the Watchtower has said elsewhere about teaching “God’s message.”
KW: I highlighted this awhile back because when I first read it, I had that friend in mind that I told you about. The guy who was more loyal to his religion that to God. That was one of the things that he kept saying. “This is God’s message.” But if it is God’s message, then what we are saying is that it is inspired. God’s inspired Word because He can’t have a message that is not true.
When it turned out to be a false prophecy, all of a sudden it wasn’t God’s message anymore they just thought it was God’s message. But if they think it is God’s message and it isn’t then Deuteronomy 18 is very clear about what is suppose to happen. So I appreciated this paragraph when it stated, “We may claim to love God but how we react to what his inspired Word, the Bible, teaches will reveal our true thoughts, even the very intentions of the heart.” I hate to say it about my friend, but at that time, his true thoughts and intentions was not to follow God. It was to follow his religion.
My Witness friend’s eyes were open wider than I have ever seen them. He was looking intently into my face and sat on the edge of his seat. He even leaned over the table as if he needed to get closer to better hear what I was saying. I got the impression that he was watching what he knew was going to be a train wreck. He didn’t want to see it but couldn’t bear not seeing it even more. He couldn’t look away.
Finally, he just looked down to paragraph 20 and read it. It was an awkward way to break the silence. I cracked another joke and got him laughing again to alleviate some of the tension. He started telling me about a couple of movies he had seen and was using illustrations from them to make a point about going door to door. I haven’t seen it, but I guess in the move Titanic there was a scene where sailors going from door to door warning people about the impending danger. He likened that to the work of the Witnesses. Evidently this part of the conversation was enough to revitalize him and he was ready for round two. It was nearing time to conclude our study so he completely surprised me when he pulled a sheet of paper out of his book bag and said:
JW: I don’t know how much time you have, but I did some research on our discussion last week.
KW: (Laughing) Oh, okay. I’ve got a little time for that.
My friend started laughing too. It was almost a wild sort of cackle. His attitude had completely changed and in a weird sort of way, I think he was getting comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. He was ready to talk so I obliged him even though I had limited time.
This next part of the conversation was very detailed like it was last week so I am going to stop here and write up that part separately. Unfortunately, I have a lot on my plate for this weekend so I will not be able to work on the next post until Monday. I’ll try to get it posted as soon as I can.
Please keep praying for my Jehovah’s Witness friend.