Giving the Jehovah's Witnesses a Broadside (1994)
[Note: The following document was written in 1994, at which time its criticisms of Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine was valid. However, the Jehovah's Witnesses have since abandoned the end-times prophecy dealt with in this article. On the plus side, this means they have abandoned a doctrine based upon spurious interpretation of Scripture. On the other hand, this being the fourth major revision in the end-times doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses, it perhaps demonstrates even more forcefully the fickleness of the group. What the new doctrine is, and whether or not it is any better than the last one, I do not know at this point.]
One of the main elements of the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses is a specific interpretation of Daniel 4 which is very easy to argue against. The Witnesses interpretation, as set forth in pages 136-141 of their You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, extracts a prophecy which sets 1914 as the year in which Christ begins to rule as king of the "heavenly government."
Daniel 4:1-17 sees Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, describing a dream he has just had to his servant Belteshazzar (otherwise known as Daniel). Daniel 4:18-27 has Daniel interpreting the dream for his king, and Daniel 4:28-37 shows the fulfillment of the dream.
In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar first sees a great, strong, and abundantly stocked tree. Then he sees an angel descend from heaven and declare that the tree should be hewn down, but the stump and roots left in the ground and bound with a band of iron. The angel finishes by declaring:
"...let him graze with the beasts
On the grass of the earth.
Let his heart be changed
from that of a man,
Let him be given the heart of
And let seven times pass
and letting it be known that the whole thing is a demonstration of the dominion of God over man.
What Daniel says about this dream is that (1) the tree represents Nebuchadnezzar; (2) Nebuchadnezzar will be deposed for "seven times" until he realizes that God, and not he himself, is responsible for the greatness of the Babylonian kingdom; and that (3) Babylon will still be waiting for Nebuchadnezzar when the "seven times" are finished, and he will rule again.
The Jehovah's Witnesses have a unique way of interpreting all of this: they claim that: (1) the tree represents the supreme rulership of God because "Nebuchadnezzar was forced to know that someone higher was ruling"(p.138); (2) the cutting down of the tree represents the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 607 B.C.; (3) the "seven times" constitute 2,520 years because in Revelation, 1,260 days are equal to 3 and 1/2 times, and because each day counts for a year "according to a Biblical rule"(p.141); (4) adding 2,520 days to 607 B.C. yields 1914 as the year when Christ returns to rule God's heavenly government.
Now, this is apparently not exactly what the Jehovah's Witnesses have always said. According to a publication by the Worldwide Church of God: "Charles Taze Russel, whose public Bible studies formed the foundation of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, said Christ had returned to earth in 1847 and would begin his visible reign in 1914. Jehovah's Witness literature now speaks of 'the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.'"("Will Christ Return?", p.10). As the WWCG states, the Witnesses used to believe that 1914 would signal the beginning of God's visible kingdom on earth, but now (since 1914 came and went with no sign of Christ descending from the clouds) talk about how Christ began to rule the heavenly kingdom in 1914, and will begin his visible reign on earth before the last person who lived in 1914 dies. This addition is based upon shoddy interpretation of some of the statements of Jesus - when Jesus said "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God"(Luke 9:27) and "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place"(Mark 13:30), he was actually talking to - and referring to - that generation way back in the time frame in which he lived, not by any means to the generation of 1914.
This convenient change of doctrine, even if it did not have such glaring flaws, offers reason enough to suspect the Jehovah's Witnesses of shoddy interpretation, but there is more: as said earlier, Daniel 4:28-37 describes the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar's dream: Nebuchadnezzar is deposed, the seven times pass (certainly not 2,520 years), and the king humbles himself before God and is returned to power. As far as I can tell, the whole business with the dream is closed. There is no reference anywhere to the dream having a wider significance than Daniel's own interpretation. There is no reason to equate the "times" in Daniel 4 with the "times" in Revelation, nor is there any reason to use the day-year principle. All of the clever handiwork of the Witnesses is a perversion of the clear intent of Daniel 4.
Naturally, none of this will convince a good Jehovah's Witness of anything except perhaps that you are not much of a prospect for conversion and not worth a return visit. But what more could anyone possibly want?
Copyright © 2002, Mark I. Vuletic. All rights reserved.