This morning I had my third meeting with some Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has been the same lead person each of the three visits, but a different helper each time.
I had mentioned last time that I was interested in how they got 1914 as the year of the establishment of the kingdom of God in heaven. Initially we were going to focus on Revelation 12. They see the casting out of Satan from heaven as being necessary before God’s kingdom could be established in heaven.
I pointed out “She gave birth to a Son, a male who is going to rule all nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” (Revelation 12:5) which takes place before the casting out of Satan. Yet this verse looks as if the throne is already established before that happened.
This led to a shift in gears and a focus on Daniel 4. They asked me what I thought this chapter was about. To me, it is clearly about Nebuchadnezzar and his experience of losing his mind in order to be humbled because of his pride. Is there a further meaning? The principle is that we should understand that ultimate power is with God and we should not to be proud of our own accomplishments.
They explained that it was a prophecy about the coming of the kingdom. The cutting of the tree is to represent the end of the kings of Israel. The “seven times” is the times of the Gentiles, that is the period between the end of the kingship and the establishment of the kingdom in heaven. The restoration of Nebuchadnezzar is Jesus’ establishment of the kingdom in heaven.
They asked me what I thought of this and I told them the truth. “It’s a pretty big stretch.” This is not me as a Baptist pastor opposing Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. This is me reading a passage from the Bible and not seeing even a hint of what they are saying.
Since we were in Daniel 4, I pointed out this verse:
How great are his miracles,
and how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom,
and his dominion is from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:3)
This verse really seems to suggest that God’s kingdom was reality, at least in heaven, even in the time of Daniel. Instead of responding to this verse, the brought me back to Adam’s rebellion against God, meaning that the kingdom couldn’t be a reality until Jesus established it. Again a big stretch.
They admitted that it is not immediately obvious that Daniel 4 means what they say it means. They even admitted that Daniel wouldn’t have understood it. This was a “sacred secret” which would only be revealed later in time.
I asked who it was revealed to (even though I already knew). They responded with, “Does it matter?” It matters very much. Even in the Bible, there are plenty of false prophets saying something would happen. I reminded the Jehovah’s Witnesses that many people of many traditions have made calculations and predictions and were wrong.
I finally asked if it was Charles Taze Russell. They admitted that it was. Just because it was Russell, doesn’t mean that it was wrong. Unlike the Mormons with Joseph Smith, Jehovah’s Witnesses have backed away from Russell. There are too many embarrassing parts to his life and ministry.
I wanted then to get to how they calculated 1914, since that is not in Daniel 4. They declined at that point, desiring to go back to the basics of the kingdom of God at our next meeting.
Are you interested in learning more about Jehovah’s Witnesses? Check out my book The Watchtower and the Word.