The "Jehovah's Witnesses"
"Jehovah's Witnesses" of colporteurs of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Brooklyn, New York. Indigenous to the United States, this religious movement is the product of Charles Taze Russell and his successor, J o s e p h Rutherford. Established in 1 884, its membership today numbers in excess of 250,000 due to an almost fanatical allegiance of its devotees in distributing literature and conducting home studies. These devotees appear learned in the Scriptures, freely quoting Scripture and relating text to text, until this veneer is stripped away through correct exegesis of the Scriptures they quote, refutation of their cardinal tenets, and by discussion of Bible subjects off their beaten path of presentation.
Charles Taze Russell was born February 16, 1852, the son of Joseph L. and Anna Eliza Russell. His early life was spent in Pittsburgh and Allegheny, Pennsylvania. At the age of 18 he organized a Bible class in Pittsburgh that in 1876 dubbed him "pastor." This title attended him throughout his life. In July of 1879 "Pastor" Russell began publishing "Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence," now known simply as "The Watchtower." In 1884 the "Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society" was incorporated as a non-profit religious organization; in 1896 its name was changed to "Watchtower Bible and Tract Society" and its address moved from Allegheny to Brooklyn, its present headquarters. In the litigation of 1906, when his wife, Maria Ackley Russell, sued for separation, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported:
"The litigation revealed that 'Pastor' Russell's activities in the religious field were carried on through several subsidiary societies and that all of the wealth which flowed into him through these societies was under control of a holding company in which the 'Pastor' held $990 of the $1,000 capital and two of his followers the other $10." (Russell's Obituary, November 1, 1916.)
With apparently complete control, Russell managed a lucrative business that did not limit itself to peddling literature. In 1913 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle exposed him for selling "miracle wheat" at a dollar per pound. Russell brought suit, asking $100,000 damages. The Eagle won the suit and showed, as it published prior to entering court that it would, "that 'Pastor' Russell's religious cult is nothing more than a money-making scheme." (He was successful in persuading the old and infirm to will their fortunes to his societies, which he owned and managed.)
Russell, in his day, was exposed in court as a man of no scruples, of Lying under oath, and deficient in moral character. (High Court of Ontario: Russell vs. Ross, March 1913; the files of the Hamilton, Ontario Police Court, Dec. 9, 1912 and Feb. 7, 1913; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, issues of Jan. 1, 22-25, 27-29, 1913; et al.) Russell used his litigations to complain of "persecutions." Thus was able to survive the expose' of his character and enterprise with the deceived followers. History reveals many unscrupulous men who through personal magnetism are able to draw men to themselves and though exposed for their true character are able still to secure a following. Refusing the truth, slaves of the Watchtower looked to "Pastor" Russell as one sent from God.
In the "posthumous work of Pastor Russell," The Finished Mystery, he is acclaimed the "special angel" or "messenger of the Church of Laodicea," one whom the Lord made "ruler over all His Household," to whom "the Lord gave the 'key,"' "a member of the great High Priest" and "Christ's representative in the world, the sole steward of the 'meat in due season."' His "warnings to Christendom" he affirmed as "coming direct from God.... He said that he could never have written his books himself. It all came from God, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit." (Introduction; pages 483 and 387.) Russell claimed that his writings were more enlightening that the Scriptures themselves: "people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself" and without Russell's books one "goes into darkness." The plagues of Rev. 22:18, he says, "will be . . . that he will have to read Seven Volumes of Scripture Studies, and get the matter straightened out in his mind." (Watchtower, Sept. 15, 1910; The Finished Mystery (Vol. VII); Scripture Studies, page 338)
Upon the death of Russell (Oct. 31, 1916), Joseph Franklin Rutherford assumed leadership of the movement. He was a lawyer and for a time was a magistrate circuit substitute in absence of the regular judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Booneville, Missouri. The new sect dubbed him "Judge" Rutherford. He was a prolific writer and far outstripped his predecessor. The vigor of the sect is largely credited to Rutherford. He died Jan. 8, 1.942 at the age of 72 at "Beth-Sarim" (a palatial dwelling in San Diego, California built for a dwelling place for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et al.) though he confidently wrote that millions then living would never die (death coming only to those "who become willful sinners").
Russell and Rutherford the "Jehovah's Witnesses" now class with Abraham, Moses, the apostles of Christ, and even the Lord Himself! (Page 213, Let God Be True)
The teachings of the Watchtower are evolutionary, i. e. they develop according to expediencies, and often the end result is in direct contradiction to former positions. For example, from the beginning the "Jehovah's Witnesses" argued that "all religion originated with and is forced upon the people by the Devil and his associate demons" and all "who give heed to religious teaching . . . are therefore held under the influence and control of the demons" (pages 104, 65, Religion). Again, "true Christianity is not a religion." (Page 131, Government). Now, however, they claim to be a religion: "This viewpoint on the use of the word 'religion' was not suddenly adopted by the Society. Careful readers of the Society's publications have noticed that during the past few years when religion was being discussed the publications were careful to limit any condemnation to false religion." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1951; emphasis mine' GF)
In correspondence with this writer, the Society has admitted, "some things formerly accepted by us are false." Things "prophesied" to come to pass have failed. This false teaching brands its founders as false prophets (Deut. 18:20-22).
Because of the continual evolutionary development of doctrine, to know the present position of the Watchtower sect one must continue to read her publications, as only the latest present what is now supposed to be believed. Even the "Witnesses" are unreliable: they contradict one another due to limited knowledge of "present truth." This is one reason why the "Witnesses" are avid readers of the Society's publications, and why their books are more closely read than the Bible. ("Pastor" Russell claimed that one could read the Bible alone and go into darkness; therefore light lay in his society s publicationsWatchtower, Sept. 15, 1910).
THE TRUTH: In contrast to the Society's developing image, the truth of God is completely revealed and certified, admitting of no change or further revelation. The faith, or gospel, has been delivered once for all, complete in its revelation of the will of God (Jude 3, James 1:25, Acts 20:27, Eph. 3:3-5, 2 Pet. 1:3, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is certified, confirmed by signs and miracles from God (Gal. 1:11, Mark 16:20, Heb. 2:3-4). The truth as preached by the apostles and prophets admit of no change (Gal. 1:6-9). One is able to understand the "mystery of Christ" through the reading of Scriptures without the works of the Watchtower; in fact, countless multitudes have known the Lord without Russell and before he ever conceived of his millennial theory (Eph. 3:4, 1 John 2:3-4).
The Millennium Kingdom
The Watchtower movement is fundamentally materialistic millennialism. Disprove this basic theory and the superstructure crumbles.
The "new earth" they claim will be a visible organization on earth through which the earth will be restored to Edenic purity to be inhabited forever. This visible organization represents the "kingdom of heaven," the invisible government. Representatives visibly present on earth, Princes of the invisible government, will be Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et al. resurrected from the dead. Christ and 144,000 "body" members or "bride," as kings and priests, will reign 1,000 years over the subjects on earth. Several dates have been presented by the "Witnesses" for all of this to be. Russell stated, "the thousand years of Christ's Reign, began in 1873" (Page ii, Vol. II, Studies in the Scriptures). In Vol. VII of Studies in the Scriptures (page 217) he is made to say: "This was all fulfilled in 1878 (Rev 11:17).
At that time our Lord took unto himself His great power and began His reign." From Vol. I to Vol. VII the time shifted only five years, but then came Rutherford and he made out the "Pastor" a false prophet by setting the date at 1914: "In 1914 Jehovah set his anointed One upon his throne; there fore at that time Christ Jesus took his authority as King" (Page 73, Prophecy). This is the date the "Witnesses" now recognize though things promised to come about have failed (of these things modern "Witnesses are not told).
The Watchtower has taught that with the establishment of the kingdom marvelous things would follow, and even set the dates for their occurrence. They have failed. The visible representatives were to have appeared: "Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old . . ." (Page 89, Millions Now Living Will Never Die) Churches were to have been destroyed: "Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity"' (Page 485, Vol. VII, Studies in the Scriptures). The political, financial and religious world was to perish: "the complete destruction of 'the powers that be' of 'this present evil world' political, financial, ecclesiastical by the close of the 'Times of the Gentiles,' October A. D. 1914". (Page 622, Vol. IV, Studies in the Scriptures). Armies would be disbanded; places of ill repute closed; the living would never die; the lame and afflicted would be restored to full health (Page 633, Vol. IV, Studies in the Scriptures; pages 331, 333, Harp of God). Of course, these things failed to come to pass. These published works are monuments to the fact that the Watchtower movement is a fraud and deals in deception.
THE TRUTH: Whereas the Watchtower Society promises a future reign of Christ, a paradise on earth, the Bible teaches that the kingdom was established when He ascended, and that when He returns it will be to deliver the kingdom to God the Father and to execute vengeance on the disobedient in flaming fire that will destroy the earth. As Jesus has promised that some of His contemporaries would yet be alive when the kingdom would come, it came with power by the Holy Spirit on the Jewish Pentecost following His ascension (Mark 9:1, Acts 1:6-8, Luke 24: 49, Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-4). Jesus ascended, following His resurrection, to sit on His throne (Acts 2:30-35). He now reigns and will continue until the end (1 Cor. 15:24-26). Following His ascension persons were said to be "in the kingdom" and "translated into the Kingdom" (Rev. 1:9, Col. 1:13, Heb. 1228). When Christ comes again it will be to receive His saints and to punish the wicked (1 Thess. 4:13-18, 2 Thess. 1:6-10). The earth will be burned up and the kingdom delivered to the Father (2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Cor. 15:24, John 14:1-3).
The "Witnesses" deny the deity of Christ, teach that man is entirely physical and is devoid of a spiritual nature, reject the existence of hell and eternal punishment, and deny a host of other Bible teachings. Space does not permit a discussion of these points in this presentation. Sufficient we believe, is the foregoing to show that the Society is a human institution that propagates false doctrine.
(Note: In development of the history of the Society the writer is indebted to the following works: Jehovah of the Watchtower by Martin and Klann and The Chaos of Cults by J. K. Van Baalen.)
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 1, pp. 19-21 October 1965