by Barbara Anderson
In 1991, one of the Watch Tower Society’s senior writers, Colin Quackenbush, told me in the privacy of his office about letters which the Society had received from “prominent and credible elders, not apostates” (that’s exactly what he said), who were concerned about the increase in accusations saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses were “false prophets.” These accusations were being made through concerted efforts by the clergy, I was told, especially on the west coast of the United States. The fuel for this attack was the Society’s failed predictions with reference to the dates of 1799, 1874, 1878, 1914, 1919,1925, 1975, etc.
Moreover, Colin pointed out, the brothers were expressing frustration because “we are so far from the 1914 date and most of the old anointed are dead or dying and the new world is not here yet.” To combat the criticism, the elders were requesting information to disprove the “false prophet” charge.
Colin provided that information in the February 1, 1992 Watchtower article, “False Prophets Today.” Adroitly, he avoided any mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ failed predictions with reference to specific dates, but clouded the issue by supplying four pages of data about “God’s Kingdom,” contending that those who do not teach their flocks about the “coming of God’s Kingdom” were false prophets.
Going back to the days of Jeremiah when this famous Biblical figure “served as God’s prophet in Jerusalem ,” Colin quoted Jeremiah 6:13, 14 early on in the material: “From the prophet even to the priest, each one is acting falsely. And they try to heal the breakdown of my people lightly, saying, ‘there is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.” In other words, false prophets do not tell the truth; rather they encourage “the people to listen to lies rather than to the true warning from God,” he said.
A paragraph later, after Colin pointed out that false prophets “‘stole God’s words and led people to disaster’” we read this: “As in Jeremiah’s day, there exist today false prophets claiming to represent the God of the Bible; but they too steal God’s words by preaching things that distract people from what God, through the Bible, really says.” Then, in the next nine paragraphs, Colin ignored the problem and identified true prophets from false ones with this rationalization—True prophets teach and declare “the truth about the Kingdom.” False prophets tell about their own ideas which “steal the force and effect of what the Bible really says.”
Furthermore, the author argued, “Wrong teachings about God’s Kingdom have misled many and have even affected the course of history,” and went on to blame religious leaders in Christendom for not teaching what the Bible says about God’s Kingdom.
In answer to all those “prominent and credible elders, not apostates,” who were writing letters to the Society complaining about clergy accusations that the Witnesses were “false prophets” because of failed predictions surrounding dates, Colin shifted the burden of proof and wrote: “If these clergymen were true prophets, they would have taught their flocks that while waiting for God’s Kingdom to act, they can find real, God-given, practical help to handle the problems the inequities of this world cause.”
And later on in the article, after explaining how mankind would benefit under God’s Kingdom, we find a quote from Matthew 24:14, and then the words, “The magazine you are reading is part of that preaching work. We encourage you to avoid being deceived by false prophets.”
Was the real issue addressed?
Even back then, I was fascinated by Colin’s response knowing that he did not address the real issue which the majority of the readers of that article were unaware of. Nonetheless, all those who questioned the Society’s date-setting would recognize the article as a reply to their request for an answer to the clergy’s accusation that the Witnesses were false prophets.
Would they be satisfied with the response to their inquiry? Perhaps, but perhaps not! As the years passed, the Watch Tower Society’s reply, written by Colin Quackenbush back in 1992, could have caused many of those letter writers to fade from the organization because of their disappointment and disillusionment.
What about those letter writers who remained in the religion despite the fact that no explanation or apology has ever been forthcoming from the Watch Tower Society for setting false dates? Inasmuch as we are ten years into the 21 st century and twenty years since those “prominent and credible elders” wrote their anxious letters, to remain a member of the Witness organization, they would have had to ignore the disquiet they felt which pushed them to write the Society in the first place. And now they must surely suffer regret as their idealism has turned into a weariness of spirit from waiting for the end of the world, coupled with suspicion about Witness leaders’ prognostications.
Witness leaders have not disproved in any way the accusation that Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets because of their failed date-setting particularly in regards to the 1914 date, a marked year in which the “generation” that was alive then, they said, would not die before seeing the end of the world; yet, that generation has died without seeing an end to this world.
Since Colin wrote the “False Prophets Today” article in 1992, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has approved of a number of “clarifications” of Matthew 24:34 with reference to who the “generation” is in that scripture. Now, in 2010, the Governing Body are once again clarifying.
Note the following information from the Society’s outline of the lecture, “Remain in the Secret Place of the Most High” presented at Jehovah’s Witnesses 2010 district conventions:
Recent clarification of Matthew 24:34 underscores that we are living deep in the time of the end. A generation consists of contemporaries-individuals who live at the same time. For example, Exodus 1:6 refers to Joseph and “all his brothers” as “all that generation.” Ten of Joseph’s brothers witnessed events that occurred before Joseph’s birth; at least two of his brothers lived on after his death. Although ages varied, these contemporaries were viewed as one generation. Correspondingly, the “generation” referred to at Matthew 24:34 comprises two groups of anointed Christians. The first group was on hand in 1914 when “the sign” of Christ’s presence began to be observed. The second group, made up of those who were anointed later, are for a time contemporaries of the older group. Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:34 indicate that some in the second group will witness the beginning of the “great tribulation”; hence, the length of the “generation” is limited.
Rather than more clarification underscoring another ominous prediction, “…we are living deep in the time of the end,” Jehovah’s Witnesses should take notice that those who did the false predicting about 1914 are dead or dying off (all of them claiming to be of the “anointed”) without seeing any of their predictions come true. Even the majority of the interpreters of the predictions have died without seeing fulfillment of any Witness predictions, such as Colin Quackenbush, who clouded the “false prophet” question by ignoring the issue with the usual dodging tactics Witnesses employ when questioned about their controversial beliefs.
Have Witnesses stopped predicting?
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to thump on their chests, bragging that they are the only religion preaching the “Good News of the Kingdom” which they say identifies them as “true prophets.” Nevertheless, as they preach about that Kingdom, they continue as usual to tie the subject in with end-time predictions that never come true.
Actually, the Witnesses are not known by the public for preaching the “Good News of the Kingdom” inasmuch as the average person does not identify them with that subject. However, they are known around the globe and have become fodder for comedians because of their false predictions about the end of the world.
So I ask you, are Jehovah’s Witnesses “false prophets” as accused by Christendom’s clergy? It’s apparent they are because as the years have rolled by since the Watch Tower’s founding more than 131 years ago, this religion has continued to predict an “end-time” forecast in one form or the other despite complete failure of previous visionary utterances.