And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 6:8)
He said that HIS church would last all ages, didn't he?
Your point is well taken in that Jesus did institute a church. Whether you want to call it a Congregation or a French Poodle really makes no difference. Paul was writing epistles to those under his charge who were organized into units. The New Testament mentions specific offices such as bishops, elders, priests, deacons, teachers, apostles, prophets (not really an office), priests, evangelists and seventy. Of these, the JWs have only a fraction.
The Governing Body will tell you the priesthood was abolished when Christ came, but that's not what Paul states. He said the priesthood was "changed," but didn't say how.
Regarding whether the church would last throughout the ages, I'm afraid the Society was correct, but only accidentally on its part. They were correct about the apostasy, or the loss of the Church.
But how about the gates of Hell not prevailing against the Church? Actually, this verse contains two subjects: 1) the Church and 2) the gates of Hell. Most people believe that it's Hell besieging the Church, and that it won't succeed. In this sense, however, Hell is "Death," and it's being besieged by the Church, and that throws an entirely different spin on things. Instead of the Church being hammered by Death, Death is being hammered by the Church, and Death will not prevail.
Prophecy does state rather unequivocally that the Church will not survive, and that there will be an apostasy. That was the entire reason why Jesus spent forty days with his apostles following His resurrection. He was preparing them for what the Church termed the "rule of the Cosmoplanes," an event the Church looked ahead of with horror. But it perceived it would come from without when, had it been paying attention, it would have seen that it was coming about from within!
Not only was there prophecy stating that the apostasy would come, Peter looked ahead to the days of the "restoration of all things." (Acts 3:18-20) "And [the Father] shall send Jesus Christ...whom the Heavens must receive until the times of the restoration of all things." I suppose this is how the JWs justify their 1914 "invisible return," but I honestly don't believe they know anymore.
In any event, if Jesus did actually form a church, how did it end up in the hands of Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Rutherford? And how did they learn to administer the church? And how did it manage to make itself any different than any other manmade church?
TTWSYF » Jesus specified about HIS church and those of HIS church are HIS witnesses. Doesn't that mean something to people who claim to be Christians?
Yes, but just calling one's self a "witness" isn't enough, right? "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established," the Law states. But calling one's self a witness and actually being a witness are two different things. And that's where the sub hits crush depth! No one saw Jesus return in 1914. No one saw Him choose the Bible students in 1918. No one knows whether its doctrines are correct or whether they're completely out of whack.
If the Adventist doctrines are wrong on a single point, what does that do to the entire fabric? If the soul sleeping doctrine is wrong and people (and animals) have spirits that escape their bodies at death, I'd think most JWs would be overjoyed. (Who wants to cease to exist, even for a short period?) But just being wrong on one doctrine could carry on to many other doctrines!
The Society can call itself Witnesses all it wants, but if you were a JW, and died, then suddenly discovered life continues, even though you were dead, how would you feel? Would you immediately lose faith in the entire religion?