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In the October 15, 1995 issue of The Watchtower, the Jehovah’s Witness leaders dramatically and radically altered their interpretation of Christ’s prophecy about “the sheep and the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).
The previous interpretation was that Jesus had returned and set up His kingdom rule in 1914, so from that time on He had been judging the nations and had been separating His “sheep” from the “goats.” How was Christ doing this? - by sending His witnesses (Jehovah’s Witnesses) from door to door all over the world with their “kingdom good news,” and the people divided themselves off into “sheep” and “goats” by how they responded to the Jehovah’s Witness message: those who accepted the “good news of the kingdom” became sheep, and those who opposed the message became goats.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were intensely proud of their part in fulfilling the parable of the sheep and goats. In fact, they got great comfort from it. How? The truth is that the door-to-door preaching work is very hard for the Witnesses; it puts a great strain on them because they never know what kind of reception they will receive at each door. They can encounter extreme rudeness, anger, bad language, threats, dogs being set on them, and, worst of all, complete indifference and lack of interest at door after door after door. It is indeed very wearisome labor for them most of the time.
Witnesses could go from door to door, hour after hour, day after day, with absolutely no results to show for it. After a typical day like that, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would get together and one would say, “Oh they’re nothing but a bunch of goats in this neighborhood,” and others would readily agree. Then someone would say, “Well, brothers, at least we are doing Jehovah’s will and we are fulfilling Bible prophecy by separating the sheep from the goats.” Then everyone would feel much better about the wasted day’s activity. Each Witness then would feel a sense of personal importance instead of personal failure.
The Jehovah’s Witness leaders had been teaching that interpretation of the sheep and the goats parable for over 60 years! Then, all of a sudden in The Watchtower of October 15, 1995, the Witnesses had the rug pulled out from under their feet. Now, in the July 1, 1997 issue of The Watchtower, the governing body has started to admit that the Witnesses have been raising questions. In the article entitled, “Questions from Readers” on pages 30-31, they respond to the following question:
“We were thrilled with our study of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. In view of the new understanding presented in ‘The Watchtower’ of October 15, 1995, can we still say that Jehovah’s Witnesses today are sharing in a separating work?”
Did you notice the opening statement in that question? “We were thrilled with our study of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses were thrilled!?! I can assure you, my friends, that no witness who has been struggling to do the door-to-door work for twenty or thirty years, or even longer, is going to be thrilled to learn that their hard work was not fulfilling Christ’s prophesy.
Please note the question, “Can we still say that Jehovah’s Witnesses today are sharing in a separating work?” The Jehovah’s Witness leaders answer yes, but because they can no longer use Matthew 25:31-32, they have turned to Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43.
The above parable of Jesus deals with wheat and tares (weeds) growing together, side by side, in a field and then being separated at harvest time. The Watchtower is implying that somehow the separating is being carried out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in their preaching work! Yet absolutely no proof is given. There are three things to be pointed out about this interpretation:
1. According to Matthew 13:39, the separating of the tares from the wheat takes place at the time of harvest and the harvest is at the “end of the age” when Christ returns to judge the world. All serious students of the Bible KNOW that Christ has not returned yet, so the separating hasn’t even begun. Therefore, there is no valid ground for Jehovah’s Witnesses to claim they are engaged in this separating work.
2. Verse 39 also informs us that the reaping, (when the wheat and weeds are separated), is done by angels! - not by humans.
3. As to the timing of this event, a careful comparison of Matthew 13:41-43 with Matthew 25:31-46 clearly shows that they parallel each other. Note the points of comparison:
a. Matthew 13:41: “The Son of Man will send for his angels...” Matthew 25:31: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him.”
b. Matthew 13:41: “They (the angels) will gather out (separate) from His kingdom all... those who commit lawlessness.” Matthew 25:32: “He will separate them (all people of all nations} from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
c. Matthew 13:42: “And [Christ] will cast them (the weeds) into the furnace of fire. Matthew 25:41: “Then He will say to those on His left (the goats), depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire...”
d. Matthew 13:43: “Then the righteous (the wheat) will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Matthew 25:34: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you...”
Both the October 15, 1995 and the July 1, 1997 Watchtowers insist that Matthew 25:31-32 is fulfilled after the great tribulation begins; therefore the same application must be made of Matthew 13:37-43. So, Mr. and Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness, you have no valid basis for claiming to share in a Biblically prophesied separating work.
Written by Peter Barnes