For several years I have been honored to coordinate and moderate a Jehovah’s Witness support group based in Los Angeles and San Jose, California. Our group stays in touch by using the Yahoo!Groups email system and through our ExJWsLosAngeles.org website.
I recently received the following question from a non-member of the group submitted on an automated email form located on the Contact Us page of our website:
“How does one cope with the new information that Armageddon will not come in our lifetime using the information from scripture, ‘This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur…’? My generation? Or [the generation of] those who saw the beginning of signs that Jesus gave us to watch for that will mark the end of this system? My hope is gone from my heart. I miss my God, but I am no longer sure he is there. How does one cope with that? Thanks for reading.”
Here is my response to this person’s question:
I’m glad you contacted me. I’ve been free of the Watchtower organization for about 30 years. I left when I was 24 years old and have never looked back. I am no longer afraid, because after heavy investigation and research I determined that the Watchtower is a false teacher. In that way, I was able to cope and search for God in a different way outside the clutches of the Watchtower organization. The more I researched and read, the better I felt, and the better I understood that I need not fear any longer.
When I was in the organization we all believed that Armageddon would surely be here in 1975. But 1975 came and went and nothing happened. The same for the rest of the dates the Watchtower had set that proved to be false prophecies. That includes when the Watchtower built a mansion in San Diego [in the 1920s] naming it Beth Sarim (“House of Princes”) for the Old Testament prophets (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, etc.) to live in. According to the Watchtower, those Old Testament saints were to return in 1925. In 1921 Joseph Rutherford gave a speech referring to the “indisputable truth that millions now living will never die!”
Earlier last year the Watchtower made changes in their doctrine of “this generation.” Now that “generation” is a never-ending and overlapping generation. Time is against the Watchtower because time is always the enemy of the false prophet. (Please see this link: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/generation.php)
I have always believed in God and continued to believe in God after leaving the Watchtower organization. One of the biggest problems with the Watchtower is that they seem to set themselves up in the place that Jesus Christ should be in. They have a two class system, making their “anointed” class the upper class, and the “great crowd” the class that must hang on to the anointed. Why have a Savior who has died for our sins if you have to hold on to an anointed class? This is totally unscriptural and there is nothing that Jesus ever said that would lead anyone to believe that there would be a two class system – unless you have someone like the Watchtower organization reinterpreting the Bible for you. They have manipulated the minds of rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses, making them believe that they themselves are the “mediators” for you – not Jesus. Scripture teaches us that Jesus is the mediator and savior for all, not just 144,000 as the Watchtower teaches. (See http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/mediator.php)
But let’s first take a look at that scripture from Matthew 24. I want to stress that when reading any type of literature, whether it is considered a “holy book” (sacred works), classical literature, fiction or non-fiction, the most important thing to keep in mind is context. No one should ever just take out parts of sentences from a piece of literature if you are going to understand it properly. When reading the Bible, or any other piece of literature (and I’m including ancient works such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey), one must look at the surrounding context and consider everything together before making a determination about what it means. So taking the one verse about “this generation” and building a whole doctrinal theology on this is dangerous.
If you begin with what Jesus said at Matthew 24, it reads:
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Messiah, and will deceive many.’”
If I’m interpreting this correctly, Jesus is saying that we ought to watch out for people who are deceiving us and not be afraid when we hear of earthquakes, wars, and the like.
In verses 23-25 it says:
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.”
The disciples had just asked Jesus about the end and the sign of his coming. But Jesus didn’t really say what the sign of his coming would be. He went on to describe that there would be things like earthquakes, wars, famines, and persecution. He also mentioned false prophets (again!). If you read on you will find that most of these things happened right before the Romans destroyed the temple. In a way, that was “the end,” and the generation who was listening to Jesus would be around to witness the destruction of the Jewish temple.
But Jesus also described his “coming.” In Watchtower theology, Jesus already secretly “came” in 1914 and has been “ruling” since then. (And nobody else seems to know it except the Watchtower and its followers). This doctrine is an amended doctrine that Charles Taze Russell plagiarized from the Adventist groups that he was associating with before he splintered off with his own group. The 2nd Adventists, who were descendants of William Miller’s followers (“Great Disappointment” of 1843 and 1844) were the ones who came up with these years. Most rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Russell supernaturally came up with these teachings on his own because God anointed him with this information. The truth is that Russell plagiarized all the information from these Adventist groups. You don’t have to believe me. All you have to do is look up secular sources for Watchtower History.
Finally, continue to read Matthew 24 and see what Jesus says when he describes his own return. In verse 27, he says, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
The Watchtower describes Jesus “coming” as invisible. But Jesus said his coming would be very visible, just as though you were watching lightning flashing across the sky from east to west. Normally when we see a lightning storm, we see the lightning strike in a certain direction, but never as visible from east to west. But that’s how Jesus described his own coming.
Finally, my own “hope” comes from my relationship with God. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is my Savior who died for my sins. My hope comes from God’s unconditional love for me and that He will never let me go. He is not like the Watchtower god, ready to kick me out of the “kingdom” for every little perceived infraction. In the Watchtower there is no grace, no faith, and no hope.
I’m sorry this has been so long, but I felt motivated to write this to you. I recommend that you order a book called “Crisis of Conscience” by Raymond Franz. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Conscience-Raymond-Franz/dp/0914675044)
Editor’s Note: I’ve known Cynthia Hampton for about seven years. She’s been moderating the Ex JWs of California and Los Angeles Yahoo! groups and leading monthly Meet-ups in Downey, a small community near Los Angeles, the last weekend of each month. It’s been over 5 years since I’ve lived in California, but I’ve been able to attend a couple of their meetings over the past few years while traveling in the area. I’ve found everyone in the group to be friendly, open, and eager to help anyone who needs support or information about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Cynthia’s response to the inquiry above is typical of what she does so well. She has strong Christian beliefs, so she is especially equipped to help anyone who is trying to transition from the culture of the Witnesses, and yet wants to continue to have a sincere Christian faith. I hope to feature more articles from Ms. Hampton in the future.