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Captives of Constant Change

Captives of Constant Change

When it comes to religious doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the epitome of irony. How so? They are adamant they have the truth. However, their doctrine goes through constant change.

Examples of Constant Change

If you were to type in “change” into the search feature of this web site, you will find various changes. Do a search to find some of their more recent changes. You will find changes to the “faithful and discreet slave” and the “Generation“. There are changes to bible verses. And you’ll also find changes to policies.

On the jwfacts.com website, there is lots to find in terms of constant change. This includes, but is not limited to:

Considering the foregoing, do we expect an end to their constant change? Not any time soon. Why? Because they now have a new change. And what’s most noteworthy is how they introduce it.


Introducing Change

Watchtower November 2016 (Study Edition)The Study Edition of The Watchtower, November 2016 has introduced a new change to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine. There are five study articles in this edition of The Watchtower. The titles of the articles are as follows:

  1. “Keep on Encouraging One Another Each Day”
    The article is designed to encourage regular attendance at meetings in the Kingdom Hall.
  2. Organized in Harmony With God’s Own Book
    The article suggestively positions the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “God’s Organization”. It then requests submission and loyalty to their direction, as if it were from God.
  3. Do You Highly Esteem Jehovah’s Book?
    This article sets the stage for the following two articles. On page 16, paragraph 10, it reads in part, “Think about the many organisational changes that have been made during the past decade – and bear in mind that Jehovah is behind such developments”. A subtle but powerful statement.
  4. Called Out of Darkness
    This is the first part of a two-part series redefining an aspect of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine. It reviews the long-standing belief that there was a parallel between ancient Israel’s captivity in Babylon in 607 BCE and the captivity of Jehovah’s Witness leaders in 1918.
  5. They Broke Free From False Religion
    This article is the final part of a two-part series redefining an aspect of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine. It clarifies for Jehovah’s Witnesses how ancient Israel’s captivity no longer corresponds with their leader’s imprisonment in 1918. Instead, a parallel is drawn with a doctrine taught over 65 years ago.

Connecting the Articles

The first article encourages members to attend meetings. Being at meetings improves the likelihood that Jehovah’s Witnesses will prepare for the Watchtower study. Preparing for the Watchtower articles that follow the initial one improves the indoctrination process. This in turn, will ensure quick acceptance of the new change in doctrine.

The second article attempts to convince readers that the teachings of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are inspired of God. It provides evidence that Jehovah “is the incomparable Organizer”. However, it provides no evidence that the Governing Body is God’s Organization. Yet the article directs readers to loyally submit to the direction of the Governing Body. This is key when considering the change made in doctrine.

In terms of convincing Jehovah’s Witnesses of the new change, the third article is probably the most important of all.  It tells readers not to be quick to take offense. They need to work at being less sensitive and more forgiving. It directs regular meeting attendance. Ironically, it urges readers to promote unity of doctrine. Simply translated: “Accept the new doctrine and forgive us for the error we made for the last 77 years.” This notion is enforced in paragraph 10 on page 16 when it says that “Jehovah is behind such” changes. Their own schools for indoctrination (Pioneer school, Gilead School etc) are described as forms of education. Loyalty is also reinforced. No decision should be made without seeking help from “God’s organization”. The article ends with the promise that loyalty to the organization will mean living forever.

The stage is set.

The final two articles discuss the change in doctrine. The first article explains the original doctrine: a parallel in prophecy between Babylonian captivity of Israel in 607 BCE and the imprisonment of senior Jehovah’s Witness officials in 1918. The second article suggests the new doctrine.

The Original Doctrine

Since 1939, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or “God’s Organization” as they like to think of themselves, had their adherents believe that there was a prophetic parallel between Israel’s 70 year captivity in Babylon in 607 BCE and the brief imprisonment of leading officers of the Watch Tower Society in 1918. That was until now.

In the article, Called Out of Darkness, the writers have the audacity to say that The Watchtower only “suggested that God’s modern-day servants entered into Babylonian captivity in 1918 and that they were released from Babylon in 1919.” The evidence will show that it was more than a suggestion. It was clearly stated.

Statements of Suggestion

The Watchtower March 1, 2001

Was Babylon the Great ever forced to acknowledge Jehovah’s powerful works? Yes. During the first world war, Jehovah’s anointed servants preached under tribulation. In 1918 they went into spiritual captivity when leading officers of the Watch Tower Society were imprisoned. The organized preaching work virtually ceased. Then, in 1919, Jehovah restored them and reinvigorated them with his spirit, whereupon they set out to fulfill the commission to preach the good news in all the inhabited earth. – p. 15 par. 17 (bold text ours)

The Watchtower March 15, 1992

What about God’s modern-day servants? As an organization, they have not missed the purpose of their God-given freedom. In the 1870’s they began to get free from Babylonish errors and to enjoy increased Christian freedom. This was in keeping with Proverbs 4:18, which says: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” Yet, as God’s ancient people were taken into Babylonian captivity for a time, in 1918 Jehovah’s servants came into a measure of bondage to Babylon the Great.– p. 11, para 18. (bold text ours)

The Watchtower May 1, 1989

… in May 1918, warrants were issued for the arrest of J. F. Rutherford, the new president of the Watch Tower Society, and seven other Watch Tower associates … Thus, in 1918, symbolic captivity to Babylon also became a literal imprisonment for some of Jehovah’s people.  – p. 4 (bold text ours)

The Watchtower July 1, 1983

Like the Israelites of old who were deported from the land of their national life and, spiritually speaking, buried for 70 years in Babylon, so the remnant of modern spiritual Israelites were threatened with extinction during the years 1914-1918. The end of World War I in 1918 left them like a “corpse” on Jehovah’s hands, spiritually speaking. – pp. 19-20 par. 10

See also, The Watchtower July 15, 1981 pp. 16-19 pars 1-12; Feb 1, 1972 p. 79 par. 11; Oct 15, 1972 p. 631 par. 11; Dec 1, 1970 p. 726 par. 26; Jan 1 1968 p. 20 par. 51; May 15, 1966 pp. 310-311; Sep 15, 1966 p. 553,559 pars. 2,17; Feb 1, 1964 p. 80 par. 9; Jan 15, 1962 p.47 par. 26; Aug 1 1960 p. 462; Nov. 15, 1958 p. 691 par. 22; Dec 15, 1955 p. 749 par. 15; Oct 15, 1953 p. 630 par. 17; May 15, 1951 p. 303 par. 11.

Introduction of the Original Doctrine

When was the original understanding that Israel’s captivity in Babylon had a fulfilment with Watchtower leaders imprisonment in 1918 and their subsequent release in 1919?

This question is not an easy one to answer. Why? Because, although The Watchtower has been telling it’s members to “Get out of Babylon the Great” since 1919, the doctrine of their leader’s imprisonment and release as it relates to Israel’s captivity in Babylon from 607 – 537 BCE was not formulated. How do we know this? We know this from reading The Watchtower.

The Watchtower April 15, 1937, p. 125

The year 617 B.C., when Ezekiel was carried away captive, very well corresponds with the year 1914 (A.D.), the beginning of the World War. There was an effort made by Satan’s organization to commandeer all religious organizations for the purpose of winning the war, and those of God’s covenant people were not only threatened but many of them were forced into the war and the work of proclaiming the truth was hindered everywhere. Not until 1919, or five years after the beginning of the war, was the way again open to freely witness to the truth. The year 1919, therefore, corresponds with the year 612 B.C., which was the time that Ezekiel received the vision and was commissioned by the Lord to act as a priest and to represent God as a prophetic witness. (bold text ours)

Readers would do well to read the full article. It is entitled Prophecy and is found on pp. 125-127 of The Watchtower April 15, 1937. From reading the above paragraphs, one can quickly grasp that neither 1918 or 1919 correspond with 607 BCE or 537 BCE. 1919 corresponds with 612 BC and 1918 does not correspond with any particular date.

So when did it become doctrine? We believe it was in 1939. In The Watchtower June 15 1939 & The Watchtower July 1, 1939 there was a 2 part series of articles entitled DOOM OF RELIGION. It was in these articles that the old doctrine was introduced and it has remained in force from 1939 to 2016.

The Watchtower July 15, 1939, p. 206

JEHOVAH delivered a remnant of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and restored them to the land of Judah and Jerusalem, which had lain desolate without man or beast for seventy years. Through fear of the enemy and the religiousness on the part of some that remnant permitted themselves to be held up for sixteen years with respect to rebuilding the temple of Jehovah God at Jerusalem. Then Jehovah raised up his faithful prophet Zechariah to encourage the remnant in the completing of the temple building. Now, since A.D. 1919, Jehovah God has restored the faithful remnant of his witnesses on earth from a like captivity in the Devil’s organization foreshadowed by Babylon. Christ Jesus, the chief corner stone of the building, proceeds to the building of the great spiritual temple wherein Jehovah dwells by his spirit, and the great Builder gathers unto himself at the temple the faithful remnant, cleanses them and sets them to offering a praise offering in righteousness unto Jehovah God.-Mal. 3: 1-4. (bold text ours)

From July 1939 to November 2016, this doctrine has been in place. For more than 77 years they have suggested that Israel’s captivity to Babylon corresponded with Jehovah’s Witness leaders’ imprisonment from 1918 to 1919!

The Revised Doctrine

The new doctrine is very simple. This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses will believe from November 2016 onward:

  1. The Babylonian captivity of Israel in 607 BCE has a modern-day fulfilment when a person is held captive to “Babylon the Great”, which is what they believe is all false religion.
  2. The Israelite’s release from Babylonian Captivity in 537 BCE has a modern day fulfilment when a person becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are then freed from “Babylon the Great” or false religion.

Is this new understanding? No. Even as far back as 1881, The Watchtower has drawn a parallel between the Babylonian captivity of Israel and one being captive to false religion. See The Watchtower January 1881 [177] (page 3 in the pdf).

The Watchtower April 15, 1919

MODERN BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY Christ Jesus through his apostles organized the church, the members of his body; and during the early part of its development its members enjoyed liberty. The time came when ambitious politicians entered the church, organized man-made systems in the name of Christ, and the members were subjected to the bondage of such organizations. The many systems that have been organized throughout the period of the Gospel age have each formed a prison house, figuratively speaking, depriving many of their true liberty in Christ. These systems the Lord designates in the Scriptures as “Babylon,” meaning confusion, and he describes the consecrated ones in “Babylon” as those who are groaning because of their captivity, or incarceration. He foreshadows the joy of those released from this condition, putting these words in their mouths, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” (Psalm 126:1, 2) Thus he pictures in a small degree the joy coming to any one receiving liberty, especially those who receive liberty through a full knowledge and obedience unto Christ. (bold text ours)

Granted, they have muddied the doctrine over the years. For example, The Watchtower 1912, September 1, [5092], made the following statement:

During the great Babylonian captivity the Jews were compelled to live in Babylon to be a part of her, to support her, although their bondage was not severe. So today God’s people are required to stay in Mystical Babylon, be a part and parcel of Babylon; to support some of her wards and denominations. Therefore it becomes a difficult matter to flee out of Babylon. But we find in the Scriptures graphic pictures of what is coming upon Mystic Babylon, and those who would escape must flee. As Cyrus, a type of Christ, overthrew Babylon, so a part of the work of the second advent will be the overthrow of antitypical Babylon.

– Jer. 51:6; Rev. 18:21. (bold text ours)

Blasphemous or not?

Bear in mind what the writer(s) said in The Watchtower November 2016 on page 16 par. 10, “Jehovah is behind such developments.”

If Jehovah really is behind such developments, past and present, was he behind the change in 1939? If so, why are they changing back to a doctrine that dates back to 1881? Either Jehovah is unsure of His own truth or Jehovah is not behind such developments. Whichever way you look at it, it is blasphemy. Why? Because it shows a complete lack of reverence to God. (Mark 3: 28, 29; Romans 2: 24; compare Isaiah 52:5). God is clearly not behind these “developments”. If God was behind them, there would never have been a change from what was originally believed in 1881. Indeed, there wouldn’t have been various interpretations of it between 1881 and 1939. And god most definitely would not have been behind the 77-year false teaching that it represented a handful of nobodies who were imprisoned for a very short period of time in 1918/1919.

Why the change?

It has always been imperative for The Watchtower to draw parallels between biblical narratives and their organization. This helps ensure members believe they have God’s backing. Connecting Israel’s captivity with their leader’s imprisonment for almost 80 years had achieved this. But now it’s time to change because time is moving on. And a false teaching that has absolutely no biblical support needs to be done away with.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have always focused on the end being very soon. But it has been almost 100 years since 1919. Although the rank-and-file think Armageddon is imminent, their leaders aren’t so confident. They know that they need to remove as many references to dates as they can from their doctrine. Because as time goes on, and Armageddon doesn’t come, they will need to have their irrelevant dates gone from most of their doctrine. And that will at least help them to retain members.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are quick to forget old doctrine and willingly embrace the new. And none of them are really sure what their doctrine is. They tend to leave that stuff “in Jehovah’s hands”. After all, they are too busy going door-to-door preaching a message that constantly changes that they haven’t time to keep up with their changes. They truly are captives of constant change.

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Jason Wynne is a husband to one wife, father to two children, and writes extensively on the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses having been baptized as a member in 1995.

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