SHORT CHRISTIAN READINGS SELECTED FOR FORMER JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
Watching for Christ's Return
By David A. Reed
After his death and resurrection, Jesus appeared alive to his followers over the course of some weeks. Then, as they watched, he rose into the sky until he disappeared from their sight. Two angels told Jesus' followers, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky." -- Acts 1:11.
Jesus himself spoke often to the disciples about his return, his second coming. It will not be like his humble birth in a barn, or his submissive death on the cross. Rather, Jesus said he will return with great power and glory, "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky." -- Mark 13:26-27.
Jesus will return as King of the Kingdom of God. When he was put on trial before the high court of the Jews, and the high priest demanded to know whether Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, "Jesus said to him, 'You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky.'" -- Matthew 26:64.
Jesus knew the Jewish religious leaders would understand this to be a reference to the book of Daniel, where the prophet wrote, "I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." -- Daniel 7:13-14.
Jesus devoted a significant portion of his teaching to the subject of his return. Many of his parables are devoted to this theme, describing how people would be caught by surprise, and would be rewarded or punished at that time. You may wish to read, for example, the parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats -- all found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew -- and the parable of the faithful and wise servant at the end of the twenty-fourth chapter.
Jesus encouraged us to, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. ... be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." -- Matthew 24:42-44 NIV.
We can "be ready" by living the way the Bible teaches us to live, and we can "keep watch" by eagerly praying for Christ's return and by paying attention to world events that point to the imminence of his coming. Which events? When Jesus told them about the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, his disciples asked him, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3) Jesus answered them with a lengthy discussion of future world events, recorded for us in Matthew chapters 24-25, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21.
After speaking about armies surrounding and destroying Jerusalem, and the Jewish people being scattered worldwide, Jesus went on to speak of future events that would lead up to his return in power:
"There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and on the earth anxiety of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the waves; men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near." -- Luke 21:23-28.
The Apostles also elaborated on the end times in their letters found in the New Testament. And the Old Testament prophets wrote at length on these matters, too. It would take a whole book to discuss these prophecies adequately, and their relation to events down through history and in today's world. ...
There is considerable controversy among Christians as to how to interpret the various end times prophecies, and just how the foretold events will unfold. As was the case with those who were watching for the Jewish Messiah's appearing back in the first century, and who were surprised to see how Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies, we may all be surprised to see how the end times prophecies will actually be fulfilled, and when. But even a simple reading of the Bible gives those who are keeping watch good reason to believe that Jesus will return very soon.
We can learn, too, from God's past interventions in human affairs when mankind's behavior deteriorated to the point that God forcefully put a stop to it: the flood in Noah's day, the destruction of immoral Sodom and Gomorrah, and God's intervention to stop the construction of the tower of Babel. (See Genesis chapters 6-8, 11, and 18-19.) Has our world today reached the level of violence that prompted God to destroy the pre-flood world? Are people today behaving like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? Has our technological advancement resulted in attitudes like those of the people who were building the tower of Babel? Then we have further reason to be in eager expectation of Christ's return.
Developments in the Middle East over the past few decades appear to have set the stage for prophesied events that could not take place without a Jewish Israel having been restored and a Jewish Jerusalem becoming powerful in the region. And without a United Nations organization and a restored Jewish Jerusalem, how could Zechariah's prophecy ever come true, that the nations of the earth will unite to attack?
"One day all the nations on earth will come together to attack Jerusalem. ... I will bring all the nations together to fight Jerusalem. ... Then the LORD will go to war against those nations." -- Zechariah 12:3; 14:2-3 NCV.
This appears to describe the same war as the battle of Armageddon foretold by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation: "These evil spirits are the spirits of demons, which have power to do miracles. They go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them together for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ... to the place that is called Armageddon in the Hebrew language." -- Revelation 16:14-16 NCV.
Could we imagine the United Nations mobilizing to enforce its resolutions concerning Jerusalem? That might well fit the scenario described by John and by Zechariah. There are various theories and interpretations circulating in the churches today as to just when and how Christ will return, and what will happen on earth as the day approaches. Will one of these theories prove to be correct? Or will Jesus surprise all of us? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, we need to follow Jesus' advice: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." -- Mark 13:33 NKJV.
What Happened To The "Creator's Promise"?
By Rafael Martinez
"Whether you were alive in that year or not, 1914 should mean more to you than a mere calandar sheet curled and yellowed with age or a headline on a crumbled magazine page. It is a momentous year that touches you life today." WT, 1 April 1984.
If you are a Jehovah's Witness, you are certainly aware of just how vitally important the Watchtower Society has made the year 1914 to your eternal destiny. Millions of your brothers and sisters "in the truth" around the world have been assured for years by the organization that "1914 is indeed a focal point of Bible prophecy" (WT, 15 April 84, p. 6), and did their best to live their lives accordingly, foregoing families, careers, and personal desires to preach the "gospel of the kingdom", through full and part time field work.
You also are aware that, according to the WatchTower Society, from 1914 onward, world conditions have worsened dramatically, with ever-increasing advances of war, famine, pestilence, and human wickedness. These supposedly make up a "composite sign, one composed of many symptoms ... of Satan's dying society" (WT, 15 April 84, p. 6, 7). "These signs," say the Watchtower, "are conclusive evidence that Armageddon is truly at hand."
"Some of the generation living in 1914 will see the end of the system of things and survive it" (You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, p. 154) relates what is perhaps the most essential conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide -- a belief that has sustained them through many of their trials and tribulations.
The Society taught for years that the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24:34 concerning "this generation" clearly identified them as some of those people who beheld the events of 1914 and who would survive Armageddon to enter the New World of Paradise Earth. This belief has helped to fortify the faith of generations of Witnesses from Argentina to Zimbabwe.
The Awake! publication's masthead through the years has also in no uncertain terms assured Witnesses that this belief is not an overzealous speculation but is instead "the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away."
A More Precise Viewpoint?
Now it seems that "new light" has been shed upon the Creator's promise by the Watchtower Society, and it would now appear that 1914 isn't as momentous as once appeared. The November 1, 1995 Watchtower magazine now claims that "the term 'generation' as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics" (p. 17).
This new view is now being advanced as to what Jesus really meant when he referred to "this generation" in Matthew 24:34. The Awake! masthead - from the November 8, 1995 issue onward - has been brought in harmony with this "new light" when it speaks of "the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things." Strangely, the generation that saw the events of 1914 don't seem to be as important as they once were.
You may have noticed several remarks in the Watchtower study articles that emphasized an actual downplaying of the need to watch any particular generation or time frame at all! Note:
" .. Their salvation depended, not upon trying to calculate the length of a 'generation' or of some dated 'times or seasons' .." (p. 15)
"We do not need to know the exact timing of events. ... our focus must be on being watchful ... not on calculating a date. ... Jehovah's people have at times speculated about the time when the 'great tribulation' would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However we "bring a heart of wisdom in," not by speculating about how many days make up a generation ..." (p. 17)
"No human can say when that end will be ... We do not know the date in advance." (p. 20)
"Does our more precise viewpoint on 'this generation' mean that Armageddon is further away than we thought? Not at all! Though we at no time have known the 'day and hour', Jehovah God has always known it, and he does not change" (p. 20).
But the WatchTower Society had been telling us for decades that "Jehovah's prophetic word, through Christ Jesus, is -- this generation of 1914 will by no means pass away until all things occur ... Jehovah who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy will bring about the fulfillment of His son's words in a relatively short time. ... you may live to see the promised new order along with survivors of the generation of 1914, the generation that will not pass away" (WT, 15 May 84, p. 6-7).
Jehovah's Witnesses were certain that Jesus' words directly applied to these times -- but now the WatchTower Society seems to be saying otherwise, and is supplying a "more precise viewpoint."
What does all of this mean for you?
The Watchtower Society now effectively has repealed "the Creator's promise" when it uses this "more precise viewpoint on 'this generation' " (p. 20) to discontinue the use of their old interpretation of Matthew 24:34!
Simply put, the bright hopes of your brothers and sisters are now little more than "old light" that merely was "adjusted" away ! Those who continue to cling to it will be singled out as disloyal and haughty for refusing to follow Jehovah's progressive organization by accepting the faithful and discreet slave's feeding.
How can "the Creator's promise" be so easily swept aside by the Society? Because, it never really was "the Creator's promise", but the speculations of a group of old men! It has been swept aside as easily as the old light that Bethel once held concerning Armageddon in 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975, and whether or not the men of Sodom will be resurrected. It was dismissed as easily as the old light the WatchTower Society once followed that banned vaccinations, organ transplants, and higher education -- after millions of your brethren suffered terribly and lost so much trying to follow what they thought was "food at the proper time."
Yes, the claims that the Society has made concerning "the Creator's promise" in regards to "the generation that saw 1914's events" must certainly NOT be viewed as divinely inspired truth. Rather, these promises must be understood for what they are -- the sectarian dogma produced by religious leaders trying to control the lives of millions of people through empty promises and vain predictions - Luke 11:45-46.
"It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then find that our understanding of the major teachings and fundamental doctrines of the scriptures was in error, and then, after that, to go back to the very doctrines that by years of study, we had thoroughly determined to be in error. CHRISTIANS CANNOT BE VACILLATING - 'WISHY-WASHY' ABOUT SUCH FUNDAMENTAL TEACHINGS. WHAT CONFIDENCE CAN ONE PUT IN THE SINCERITY OR JUDGMENT OF SUCH PERSONS?" WT, 15 May 76, p. 298