Has the Watchtower Ever Lied, Covered Up, or Changed Important Doctrines, Dates, and Biblical Interpretations?/Program 6

By: Lorrie MacGregor; ©1989
Predictions, the false prophecies that have been made by the Watchtower Society through the years. Now, are they true or are they false? Has the Watchtower organization actually been wrong in what they have declared?


Ankerberg: Welcome. During this program tonight, we’re going to examine portions of a new documentary film made on the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, better known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s entitled, Witnesses of Jehovah, and it covers many interesting areas. But what I want to look at are excerpts of the film that deal with the predictions, the false prophecies that have been made by the Watchtower Society through the years. Now, are they true or are they false? That’s what we’re going to see. Maybe as Jehovah’s Witness you don’t know your own history. We’re going to take the time to document it, so I’d like you to listen. And here’s what we’re going to do. The Watchtower Society, as you know, claims to be the channel for God to speak to all humanity. Deuteronomy 18 says if the prophet of God speaks and he’s wrong, you don’t have to listen to him, alright. We’re going to find out: as the prophet, the spokesman, the true mouthpiece, the channel for God on earth, has the Watchtower organization actually been wrong in what they have declared? We’re going to start with the first president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell. Please listen.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

Narrator: Russell claimed that in 1799 the world had entered the time of the end; that in 1874 Jesus Christ had returned invisibly, and that the world would come to an end in the year 1914. In 1879, Russell, then 27 years of age, was so passionately convinced these prophetic dates were given by God that he sold his prosperous clothing business and struck out in a new direction. With very little education or theological background, he began printing the magazine, Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Known today as The Watchtower, this publication, which has grown from an initial printing of 6,000 to well over 288,000,000 copies annually, dictates all major doctrines to Jehovah’s Witnesses. During his lifetime, Russell authored a vast amount of literature, including a series of volumes entitled Studies in the Scriptures. According to Russell, no one could understand the Bible without these books. And reading the Bible alone would lead only to spiritual darkness. One of Russell’s teachings was that Egypt’s Great Pyramid was designed and placed there by God as his second witness, next to the Bible. It would be an instrument to reveal his great plan of the ages for mankind.
C. T. Russell: “This measurement indicates the length of the year, the weight of the earth, the distance to the sun, etc. It…”
Narrator: Russell believed his dates and chronology were confirmed by the measurements of the interior passageways of the Great Pyramid. According to Russell, the passageways verified 1914 as the year the world would end. Finally, 1914 came. And went! Russell and his followers were not raptured from the earth and the end had not come. John Knight, who was 15 years old at the time, remembers what came next.
John Knight: Well, when 1914 came, of course, we had to change our views, just like we had to change some views later.
Narrator: The date was pushed forward to 1915. Then, 1918. Certainly Armageddon was just around the corner. But in 1916, Charles Taze Russell died; sick, weary, and disappointed. A massive stone pyramid stands today at his gravesite as an embarrassing reminder of his false prophecies.

Ankerberg: Before our guest comments on these predictions, I want you to compare those predictions with what the next president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Judge Rutherford, what he said. Please listen.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

Narrator: Through hard-fisted inside political manipulation, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, a Missouri lawyer, who had given himself the title of Judge, became the second president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 1917. In 1918, Judge Rutherford’s lecture entitled Millions Now Living Will Never Die was the beginning of a worldwide recruiting effort called “The Millions Campaign.” Not too surprisingly, it proclaimed the coming destruction of the existing world. It would happen soon: in 1925.
Judge Rutherford: “Based on the promises set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die!”
Narrator: In 1920, the Millions book was published. In it, Rutherford claimed the Bible proved that in 1925 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful men of old were to be resurrected, to rule henceforth as princes on the new “Paradise Earth.” Fully convinced that Rutherford’s prophecy was true, many Witnesses sold their homes and businesses and took to the road. Living in cars and trucks like itinerant peddlers, they spread the warning. As 1925 drew closer, some farmers even refused to plant crops because they believed the end was at hand. Finally, 1925 came; and as in 1914, nothing happened. Once again, the Watchtower Society’s prophecy had proven false.
As Russell had done, Rutherford doggedly held to the story that the end was just around the corner. In 1929, the Judge had this palatial mansion constructed. It was deeded to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so they and other ancient worthies would have a place to live when they were resurrected. Located in an exclusive district of San Diego, it was given the name “Beth Sarim,” Hebrew for “House of the Princes.” The world entered the Great Depression, but Rutherford lived like a millionaire, spending the winter months at Beth Sarim, summering in Europe. As Americans suffered through poverty and deprivation, Rutherford enjoyed the use of two 16-cylinder Cadillacs. Under Rutherford, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society became a well-oiled corporation. New books, literature and tracts poured forth in a flood to be sold door-to-door by faithful Witnesses. He drove his followers to labor hard for the Lord. He advised young couples not to marry but to put all their energies into proclaiming the kingdom. Even portable phonographs were utilized at the doorstep.
Rutherford: “…because the people have been induced to believe that Christianity and religion are the same thing,…”
Narrator: Around the world, zealous Witnesses paraded in front of churches on Sunday mornings bearing placards with the slogan, “Religion is a snare and a racket.” On the radio and in print, he continually stressed that the end of the world was just months away. The end finally came, but only for Rutherford. In 1942, he died at Beth Sarim, the house he had built as a luxurious testimony to God’s name. In retrospect, perhaps the only “testimony” this lovely mansion ever gave was to the “cash value” of false prophecy. In 1948, the Society quietly sold the property, covering up an embarrassing chapter in its history. Today, most modern Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware that Beth Sarim ever existed.

Ankerberg: Now, why are these false prophecies, these predictions, these dates, why are they important? Well, the Watchtower in their own magazine, The Watchtower magazine, they had an article in 1972 on page 197 that said, “They shall know that a prophet was among them.” And it asks the question, “Does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?” Then underneath the paragraph “Identifying the Prophet,” it says, “These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet?” they ask. Then they answer it for you. “This prophet was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses. Of course, it’s easy to say that this group acts as a prophet of God; it is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?”
Now, hold onto that, and see what God says in Deuteronomy 18. The Watchtower is claiming to be the prophet of God, the channel of God on earth to all humanity. Here’s what God says in Deuteronomy 18: “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place [does not come true] that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” [Deut. 18:21-22]
Now, we’re going to continue now to look at some of the prophecies that the Watchtower Society in the name of God has made to the people. One was very recent; it had to do with 1975. Please listen.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

Raymond Franz: You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that this organization is God’s one channel; that all of God’s direction for people on the earth comes through this channel. And the men on the Governing Body believe it. I believed it. And that’s the reason I was party to some things in the past that today I feel shame to think that I even had part in them.
L. Chretien: If the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society holds and enjoys the power, then they must also bear the responsibility. The truth is, they don’t. Nothing better illustrates this than their false prophecy concerning 1975.
Former Witness: Well, when the Society brought out the date 1975, I felt right away that this is going to be the date when the thing has to happen, because there is no other date beyond 1975 that anybody could point to. So, I grabbed right hold of it. It was the thing to do. And I put all my hopes in it.
L. Chretien: By the mid-60’s, the Watchtower Society had all but guaranteed that the world would come to an end in 1975. It was a prophecy that would bring in a flood of new members, and the organization prospered. But, it would have other effects on the ordinary Jehovah’s Witness.
Former Witness: We thought Armageddon was coming in 1975, so I did not have a career; I did not go to college because the end was so close. There was no need. The new world would be here.
Former Witness: I was a senior in high school and the circuit overseer, which is a traveling minister, advised me that, “It’s best for you to quit school and go into full-time pioneer work because the world is going to end in 1975.”
Former Witness: We felt so strongly about the imminent approach of 1975 and that this whole system was coming to an end, that we sold our home in lower Michigan and moved north, built a Kingdom Hall and there we intended to live out those few remaining years, having saved just enough money to go a few years beyond 1975. And so it was a great disappointment and distress when this event that the Watchtower had prophesied did not materialize.
Former Witness: I wanted to get married, I wanted to have children, but because the end was so close, when Fred and I got married, we decided that we would postpone having children. So I believe we sacrificed a lot within the organization.
Former Witness: Well, when the end of the world didn’t come in 1975, and that prophecy of the Watchtower failed, I began to wonder, “If they were wrong on this, how many others are they wrong on?”
L. Chretien: And once again, Watchtower “fact” was revealed as nothing more than contrived fantasy.
Narrator: Jehovah’s Witnesses tried to get an explanation but were unsuccessful. Apparently, for the Governing Body, nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Today, they are quick to deny their prophecies for the end of the world.
W.T.S. Rep.: We do not, nor have we attempted to predict a day or a time for it.
M. Chretien: The history and prophecies of the Watchtower Society are easily revealed as fabrications and distortions by simply reading the material they published from the beginning.
L. Chretien: Their greatest enemy is their own literature, which clearly shows the man-made nature of their theology. Jehovah’s Witness leaders have continually covered up and re-written their ever-changing doctrines, each time presenting them as “new light.” The one thing the Watchtower Society cannot tolerate in the organization is critical thinking. That’s why they forbid their followers to read any material which might expose their deceptions.
Former Witness: What really shocked me to my core was this – and every other Jehovah’s Witness listening to this – is that we were so convinced that the leadership, the Governing Body, would never tell one lie; they would always speak the truth no matter what the truth was. That is a fabrication. It is a lie. They have lied to us; they have deceived us; and we have the documented evidence. And because we’ve spoken about it, we were silenced or threatened to be silenced. And that’s what will happen to any Jehovah’s Witness listening to this program, and he knows it in his heart. He knows it in his heart.

Ankerberg: Lorri, as we’ve watched these clips tonight, can an organization that has been wrong for over 100 years, and given false prophecies,… more than we’ve presented tonight: how many false prophecies, approximately, has the Watchtower Society given over the 100 years?
MacGregor: Well, I have two pages of them written down here.
Ankerberg: Alright. And we’ve got most of it documented in our literature that we’re making available. But what would you say about an organization that has been wrong for 100 years being the ones that are leading the people and claim to be the channel for God on earth?
MacGregor: Alright. According to Scripture, there are three sources for prophecy: It’s from God spoken in the name of the Lord and it comes true. It’s from Satan, in which case it is absolutely false and comes to a bad end. Or, thirdly, sometimes prophets speak out of their own spirit. Now, let’s be kind to Jehovah’s Witnesses a little bit tonight and we’ll say, “Well, we’ll discount it coming from Satan just for a moment, alright?” When you read Deuteronomy 18, you read the part about “don’t fear that prophet,” but there’s an interesting part back in verse 20. It says, “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name which I have not commanded him to speak,… that prophet shall die.” [Deut. 18:20] Now, if the Jehovah’s Witness organization with their prophets had lived in the days of Israel, they wouldn’t be around today because they would have been taken outside the city gates and “rocked to sleep” for their failures.
Now, the Witnesses say, “Well, we made a mistake. You know, we’ve corrected it, and we’ve gone on, and we admit our mistakes, therefore it’s alright.” Is it alright? Not according to Scripture. There’s a good example in Ezekiel 13. And remember, the remnant giving these Scriptures – the remnant of the 144,000, the Governing Body – they claim to be the Israelites, they are the spiritual Israelites, so this applies to them. Ezekiel 13 says, “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, “listen to the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord [that is Jehovah, Yahweh, God] ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.’”’” [Ezekiel 13:1-3] Verse 6 says, “They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘Jehovah declares,’ when Jehovah has not sent them; yet they hope for fulfillment of their word.” Doesn’t that sound like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Always hoping. “Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, ‘Jehovah declares’; but it is not I who have spoken?” And Jehovah goes on to say, “Therefore,… I am against you.” [Ezek. 13:8] Now, I think they should listen to the clear words of the Bible. It’s spoken against them. The 6,000 years we saw on the clip that it was ended in 1975, viewers might be interested to know that it also ended in 1872 and 1873…
Ankerberg: According to the writings of the Watchtower Society.
MacGregor: Right. They missed it by a few years. In 1943 they said that man could never get up above the air envelope that’s around the earth, but a man got on the moon! Wrong again! Now, all I can do is conclude, and I believe God is speaking directly to people that are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I call them a “non-prophet organization.” Jeremiah 23:16 says, “Thus says Jehovah of Hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you, they are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.’”
Ankerberg: Okay, Lorri, there are many Jehovah’s Witnesses that are sincere, they’re good people, and when they hear this, they realize, boy, if they go back and what we have put on the screen tonight is absolutely true, they’ve been deceived. If we were a secular organization, a secular show, we could just drop it right here and everybody would leave all religion. But we have come to know something else: that the Bible is true. It’s not the truth as presented through the Watchtower organization, it’s the truth just presented in the Scripture itself.
The Watchtower Society has made an interesting statement, that those who just read their Bible “relapse” into Christian doctrine if you just leave them by themselves. And that’s right. If you just read your Bible there will be certain things that are just crystal clear. Would you say a prayer tonight for those who might be disillusioned with the Watchtower Society, but they’re just good, sincere people, and they’re looking for the truth. Instead of an organization we’re saying, “Come to know Jesus Christ personally.” You don’t have to work your way to heaven, He’s offering you the gift of salvation that He provided Himself. For those people that would like to start that relationship with Jesus Christ tonight, would you say a prayer that they could say right now, and invite Christ to come into their life?
MacGregor: Right. Let’s just pray. “Jehovah God, I come before you tonight in the name of Christ Jesus. I realize now that I may be in a false prophet organization. I know that they have set the date of 1914 and already a full 70-year generation has passed and nothing has happened. And, God, I’m just afraid that I’ve made a terrible mistake, but I don’t know how to get away. And I also know that your Word is Truth, and that Christ came to set the ones in bondage free. And I just ask that Jesus would come into my life and my heart tonight and just set me free and give me courage to take the steps I know I need to take and disassociate myself. The Bible says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Please strengthen me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”


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