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Jehovah's Witnesses & Bible Prophecy

Misinterpretation of I Corinthians 13:12 and Proverbs 4:18


Jehovah's Witnesses have a very strange (one might even say weird) view of how to interpret Bible prophecies.  This becomes apparent in the March I5, 2000 issue of their Watchtower magazine. In an article titled "O God, Send out Your Light" they set out their own basic approach to prophetic interpretations from the time of Charles Taze Russell in the early 1870’s right through to the present time.

The Witness leaders use two passages of Scripture (which they misinterpret) to support their approach to interpretation: 1) l Corinthians l3:12 that states:  "At present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror" (NWT); and  2) Proverbs 4:18  "the path of the righteous one is like a bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established" (Watchtower, March 15, 2000, pages 8 and 14). They also add the following comment in para. 12:   "Christians today understand Bible prophecy in its finest detail only after it has been fulfilled". 

 Now let’s get the significance of how the JW leaders work.  For some time Charles Russell, their first president had been preparing interpretive notes on the book of Revelation. The Watchtower publication "Jehovah's Witnesses, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom" on pages 66-67 makes this statement about "The Finished Mystery," the Seventh Volume of "Studies in the Scriptures” (this book contained the Society's official interpretation of the book of Revelation):  

“Brother Russell had been unable to produce this volume during his lifetime though he had hoped to do so. Following his death, the Executive Committee of the Society arranged for two associates, Clayton Woodworth and George H. Fisher to prepare this book... In part it was based on what Russell had written, and other comments and explanations were added.”

Anyone who has read "The Finished Mystery" knows that it is full, not only of false interpretations but downright stupid interpretations. The writers were not just "seeing as in a metal mirror hazily;” they were more like the spiritual drunkards mentioned at Isaiah 28:7-8. The following is a short list of some interpretations in "The Finished Mystery".

I.  Page 188 (Rev 12:7) Michael the Archangel pictures the Pope of Rome, and his angels picture the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church!!

2. Page 230 (Rev 14:20) refers to the distance of 1,600 furlongs which turns out to be the distance between Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Bethel (Watchtower) headquarters in Brooklyn, and Rev 14:20 foretold that would be the distance between the two Watchtower offices; Scranton where the manuscript was started and Brooklyn where it was finished!!

3. Page 156 (Rev 9:1-3) "The smoke from the pit" represented the teaching of Charles Wesley (the founder of the Methodist Church) which caused a "blinding haze of confusion in people's minds". "The sun" and "the air" being “darkened" represented the Gospel and the Anglican Church (Church of England) that were damaged by the message of Methodism!!  Is that spiritual drunkenness or is it not?

What the Watchtower Society is really claiming by their use of 1 Cor. 13:12 and Prov. 4:18 is that if you claim to be God's spokesman but God hasn't yet revealed the true meaning of some scripture to you, then it's OK to go ahead and speculate about those verses - and print books by the million to mislead millions of people, then leave it to God to sort it out later when he gives you some extra light!!  Believe me, my friends, that is NOT the way God does things.

Please note the following comment in the March 15, 2000 Watchtower on page 13: "After C.T. Russell's death, a publication designated as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures was prepared in an attempt to provide an explanation of the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. The volume was based in part, on comments that Russell had made on those Bible books.  However, the time to reveal the meaning of those prophecies had not yet come, and in general, the explanation offered in that volume of Studies in the Scriptures was hazy. In the ensuing years, Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and developments on the world scene have allowed Christians to discern the meaning of those prophetic books more accurately."

What the Apostle Paul meant when he said (as translated in the NWT), "For at present we see in hazy outline" was not that the inspired apostles got their interpretation of Old Testament prophecies wrong.  He meant that their knowledge was incomplete. We realize that someone can have a partial information without that information being false or distorted. The Witnesses, in their usual cunning manner, have inserted the word "accurately" at 1 Cor. 13 verse 12 whereas the NASB and the NIV use the word “fully". To compare knowing partly with knowing something “fully" is OK.  But to compare knowing something "hazily" with knowing something "accurately" is misleading because it can lead people to think "hazily" equals "inaccurately". 

You see the point: The inspired apostles and NT writers never made any false interpretation of O/T prophecies. Everything they wrote was completely true. None of the inspired N/T writers had to say "oops." But the Watchtower leaders have had to say "oops" time and time again.

With regard to Prov. 4:18, by using the correct rule of interpretation, namely, always interpret in context, we will see that all the early chapters of Proverbs are not dealing with how to interpret prophecy, they are dealing with the personal conduct of believers. The counsel throughout these chapters is to listen to God's advice and become wise, so Prov. 4:18 is using the metaphor of “light” to show how faithful believers become more and more wise as they get older, whereas the wicked just flounder around in spiritual darkness (see Prov 4:19).

So, my friends, when Jehovah's Witnesses make those lame excuses about their leaders' mistakes, show them how they are misinterpreting I Cor. 13:12 and Prov. 4:18.

Written by Peter Barnes

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