QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
On September 22, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“When I was reading Matthew 24, yes I have to agree that most of those words were addressed to Jews at that time. That being said, I think we can’t ignore the fact that some of his words would still make no sense. Jesus is including his coming and also the desolation of Jerusalem. Yes the great tribulation did occur but the Son of Man was not seen, neither has he taken us to heaven the elect. Would you also disregard that by tying it up with the fact that those words were said then with no greater meaning today, whereas some of the things he said haven’t happened?”
To the author, thank you for your email. This is an excellent question that raises an issue we have pondered and researched for quite some time. There are a lot of different views out there, but here is our understanding. After Jesus told his disciples that Jerusalem would be destroyed, they said:
“... Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
– Matthew 24:3
Although Jesus had not spoken about the sign of his presence, or his second coming, on that occasion, the writer of Matthew records the disciples as asking for information about both the sign of his presence and the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem.
In answer to the question about the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus described many things that would occur before Jerusalem is destroyed, and counseled them to not be distracted by these things. (Verses 4-8) He said that prior to the destruction, they would be severely persecuted by their own countrymen and they must endure these persecutions. (Verses 9-13) He assured them that these persecutions would not stop the preaching work, but that it would successfully reach the entire inhabited earth. (Verse 14) Then Jesus described a certain event that would mark the beginning of the desolation of Jerusalem and told them when they saw that sign, they were to flee and not look back. (Verses 15-28)
In response to the question about the ‘sign of the son of man,’ Jesus describes various events that would occur in connection with his presence and he explained the signs that would signal that the time for his appearance was near at the doors. (Verses 29-33) These signs were natural and reasonably expected like leaves sprouting to indicates a change in seasons, unlike the strange and unusual sign of the pending destruction of Jerusalem. The remaining verses are tell of the need to be alert, to stay awake, and to be found faithful and discreet. (Verses 37-51)
We note that verse 29 says the sign of the son of man would appear “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” However, the sign of the son of man did not appear at that time. This means that either Jesus was mistaken or the apostles misunderstood Jesus. Given our great appreciation and respect for Jesus, and the apostles’ habit of presuming things (Acts 1:6-8), we accept the latter – that the apostles and disciples misunderstood him.
Yes, Jesus clearly spoke about both his second coming and the destruction of Jerusalem on this night, but he may not have connected the two events so directly. Is it possible that the apostles connected these two events in their enthusiasm and excitement for the return of Jesus so that when the account was preserved in writing, their sense of urgency was added to it?
This is something that Christians have done in every generation since Jesus’ ascension and it is an apt description for what is happening today. Our desire for relief from the distressing circumstances of life lead many Christians to long for Jesus to return in our lifetime. But, so far, every generation has been mistaken. This disappointment is rightly charged to men, not to Jesus.
If this is what occurred, then that would explain the meaning of Jesus’ words:
“Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”
– Matthew 24:34-35
He must have been speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem because all of the things he foretold about Jerusalem’s destruction occurred within that generation – within 37 years of the words being spoken. This is a historical fact. But since the sign of the son of man did not immediately occur, we believe the following words were spoken in relation to the second coming:
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”
– Matthew 24:32-36
In support of this understanding, we point to the illustrations Jesus gave on that same night as recorded in Matthew 25:1-46. All of these parables are about Jesus’ second coming and all of them indicate that his return would be a long time in the future, at a time they would not expect. Therefore, we conclude that the greatest tribulation ever to be experienced by a ‘system of things’ is in our past and the second coming is still in our future.
For us, the key to understanding Matthew 24 is to take into consideration Matthew 25, and recognize that the ‘great tribulation’ in Jerusalem is a separate event from the second coming of Jesus. And we also keep in mind that the account in Matthew is not a transcription of Jesus’ exact words and sequencing. They are a good faith recollection of his words which were written several years later. This would explain the strange sequencing in how his answer is recorded.
However, the most important thing to remember is that whatever the future holds, exercising faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. (John 3:16; John 6:40; John 6:47; John 17:3; John 5:24) So there is no need to be overly concerned about prophesies and prophetic interpretations.
On September 22, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I like your explanation, about "this generation" but what I do not understand is what makes you so sure that was the only Great Tribulation to come. The reason why I ask this is because long after Jerusalem was destroyed, the angel gave a revelation to Apostle John. Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the Time is Near." That would mean anything written were future tense. And in chapter 7, he was told "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." If the great tribulation was only meant for the Jews then that would mean the great crowd does not include any of those living now because there is no Great Tribulation for them. Yes I understand you do shy away from prophecies, but this is not so complicated to that point. Then what John had seen in his vision were not 'things yet to come' only that happened. That’s according to my understanding of your view of the great tribulation. Thank you brothers, I hope you' ll find time to clear my cobwebs, or review it.”
To the author, thank you for your email. You raise a good question that we are happy to answer.
What makes us so sure is Jesus’ own words:
“[F]or then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”
– Matthew 24:21
This is an unambiguous statement that there will never be a tribulation greater than the one suffered by Jerusalem in 70 C.E., from the world’s beginning on into the far distant future. Whereas the verses in the book of Revelation are not so definitive. They state:
“In response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one who knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
– Revelation 7:13-14
The ‘great tribulation’ referred to here is not clearly defined. It could refer to a number of things. For example, you suggest that this could not refer to the great tribulation of Jerusalem because it was written about 20 years after the destruction. However, the Bible tells us that those who die, sleep in death and are not awakened until the resurrection. Since the resurrection is in the future, this certainly could refer to the survivors of the Jerusalem tribulation. But that is only one possible understanding. There are other ‘great tribulations.’
Remember, Jesus did not say there would not be any ‘great tribulation’ after the destruction of Jerusalem. He only said there would not be a greater tribulation in the future. Consider this: Compared to life in heaven, life on earth is a great tribulation. See Acts 7:11, Acts 11:19, John 15:21, John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 7:28, Revelation 2:22, and so many other scriptures that refer to life circumstances on earth as tribulation, even great tribulation. Check your scripture index or a good concordance. So when we are resurrected, it can truly be said that we have come out of ‘the great tribulation’ of mortal life and into the glorious heavenly career. We lean more to this understanding, but there could be other valid interpretations, so we are not dogmatic about these possible meanings.
Having said that, what we want to emphasize is that when there is a dispute between what Jesus plainly and openly stated on the one hand and prophesies or symbolism on the other hand, we ALWAYS side with Jesus’ plain words. There is no need to discount or minimize or explain away Jesus actual words because one is not sure what a prophesy means. Jesus said there would never be a greater tribulation, and we believe him, while, at the same time, we remain open and flexible as to the meaning of theRevelation.
On September 19, 2015, we received the following comment:
“Dear Brothers, Just got done reading the article on 'This Generation' and what you have said make so much sense. It make it so clear only having application for the first century. In thinking about the Destruction of Jerusalem then, it was and still is the greatest tribulation event by man that caused the greatest lost of life. Over a million lost their lives in that one event. Such a fine thought provoking article. Take Care.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We know the article “This Generation” presents an uncommon explanation of the meaning of “this generation” as Jesus stated it at Matthew 24:34, but we strongly believe it is the correct one.
For our visitors who have some difficulty in believing that there is no Great Tribulation ahead of us, but that the tribulation suffered in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. was the greatest tribulation that will ever be suffered by any ‘system of things’ on our planet, we suggest they do some research about the seize on Jerusalem. It was not only the number of individuals who were killed, but it was also the circumstances under which those deaths occurred that will never be suffered by any people ever again. There are many sources on the internet that give detailed accounts of the horrendous events that occurred in Jerusalem at that time that can help us understand why it was the greatest tribulation that ever will be, such as these references:
It should also be noted that the great tribulation that befell Jerusalem was the work of men, not God. The arrogance of the Jews, the anger of the Romans, and the refusal of the Jews in Jerusalem to take Jesus advice to ‘flee to the mountains’ are the reasons why that great tribulation occurred. It was NOT the will of God; it was the will of men.
There may be difficult times ahead due to the continued refusal of men to heed the teachings of Jesus, but as Jesus said, once the good news that he taught is preached to the ends of the earth, the enlightenment that results from such teachings will bring an end to all sorts of wickedness and suffering. (Matthew 24:14) That is the solution to our world’s woes.
Understanding the plain meaning of Jesus’ words should be a comfort to all who are in useless fear of an upcoming Great Tribulation that would culminate in the destruction of civilization. Such teachings by quasi-Christian religions does a great disservice to Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and only serves to glorify men who are seeking followers and setting themselves up as the ‘ark of salvation’ so as to build their own storehouses.
Rather than preaching doom and gloom, all who love our Prince of Peace should be about preaching and/or sharing the good news that Jesus taught and have faith in the ability of Jesus’ plain and open teachings to change our world and bring about the peace we have so longed for.
The end of suffering has lingered only because Jesus’ followers have not yet decided to do the work he asked of them (Matthew 28:19-20). When we do, we will see a welcomed and peaceful end to all distressing world conditions.
On September 13, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I enjoyed your latest article on the generation teaching [“This Generation” - The September 2015 JW Broadcast”]. I just wanted to point out that I don’t believe this was a case of "new light". This explanation was given in the January 15, 2014 Watchtower under the article "Let Your Kingdom Come but when?" It slipped in under the radar but I caught it and tried pointing it out to others that in fact they were now creating a 3rd class of anointed ones.”
To the author, thank you for your email. You are correct that the January 15, 2014 Watchtower article revealed the belief by the Governing Body that there is a third class of anointed. But the existence of a third class of anointed ones is not the “new light” we were referring to in the new article “This Generation.” The “new light” is what David Splane said about this third class.
The article quoted David Splane when he said:
“But who’s to say that Jehovah won’t be anointing more people years from now, and then they’ll be reading about us in some updated version of the Proclaimer’s Book. Well the answer is simple. Anyone anointed years from now would not have been a contemporary of the first group of anointed ones because they have passed off the scene.”
By these comments, the Governing Body is teaching the probability that: (1) there are true anointed Christians who were first anointed after 1992, the cut-off day for the second class of anointed; and (2) Jehovah will anoint others ‘years from now.’This is “new light” for Jehovah’s Witnesses because the Governing Body has long taught that the heavenly hope was closed in 1935 and that any new anointed would be mere replacements and would be few and far between. And they never abandoned their teaching that the anointed would be dying off as the ‘end’ nears. But with the September 2015 broadcast, those teachings have changed!
We recognize that this may not be what the Governing Body wanted to teach, given their history and the way they direct Elders to treat those who are newly anointed. Nevertheless, it was said, recorded and published by the Watchtower organization so faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to accept this as “new light.”
In their efforts to explain away and discount Jesus’ plain words, they actually discounted their own teachings and, in the process, showed that truth cannot be forever hidden under manmade dogma. Yes, all who desire to be anointed as sons of God with the heavenly hope will be given it. (John 1:12) It is the goal toward which we all should be pressing. (Matthew 11:12) Lies cannot destroy truth; they can only divert attention away from truth for a little while. But times are changing within the Watchtower organization, as Jesus prophesied:
“So do not fear them, for there is nothing covered over that will not become uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, preach from the housetops.”
– Matthew 10:26-27
We hope this ‘new light’ of anointing will be preached from the housetops, both within and outside of the Watchtower organization. The Governing Body is stabbing themselves over with many pains, but the true faith sons of God are rejoicing in truth and having a real share in the true ministry of reconciliation. As a result of their efforts, there is steady growth of faith sons among Jehovah’s Witnesses who have abandoned their fear of men and are also grabbing hold of the prize of the upward call. We believe this September 2015 JW Broadcast will be a useful tool in accomplishing that work.
As the article stated:
We hope Jehovah’s Witnesses who are struggling with accepting their sonship will take note. Finally, the Governing Body acknowledges that there are, and will continue to be, anointed Christians for years to come! As John the Baptist described, the ‘earthly hopers’ will keep on decreasing while the ‘heavenly hopers’ keep on increasing! (John 3:30)
And we look forward to more ‘manna’ being inadvertently served by the Governing Body as they stumble along in darkness trying desperately to patch the ever increasing holes on their sinking so-called ‘ark of salvation.’
On September 3, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I have been reading the Watchtower and an article I read said we shouldn't think for ourselves because it is a trap. So am I to believe that I should not think for myself and just do what the elders and [Governing Body] tell me to think? I am confused. I thought that the [Watchtower] was telling me the truth and I believed everything I was reading because it is supposed to be what Jehovah instructs to do. I was taught that it was scripturally based but when I compare it to what the bible says it doesn't match. The meanings are twisted. I was reading my book "What does the bible really teach" and looked up the scriptures and found so many errors. For years I took what I was reading as truth because I believed in the organization. I asked a few elders and was told that I shouldn't be questioning any publications. The way they said it to me was scary because it felt like I was being threatened. I don't want to be disfellowedship but I know that's what they meant. What is really going on? How can reading my bible and pointing out errors be wrong?”
To the author, thank you for your email. Your email reveals that you are not as confused as you state. You are clearly using your God-given thinking abilities and are reaching reasonable conclusions. What you call your “confusion” is really your attempt to reconcile common sense with certain Watchtower teachings that are non-sensical. We can tell you that such a reconciliation is futile.
Jesus demonstrated and taught independent thinking. When faced with the rituals and burdensome commands of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not acquiesce because certain men in position told him to, nor did he continue rituals that were out of step of love and compassion. He used his own mind and thinking ability, and he reasoned the matters out. How else can a ‘reader use discernment’ unless he is able to think! (Matthew 24:15)
Recall the incident when he was being condemned for healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus reasoned that since a Jew would rescue a bull on the Sabbath, surely Jesus could heal a man on the Sabbath. Of course, the scribes and Pharisees were offended at the audacity of Jesus to “think” and reach a reasonable conclusion that was not in accordance with their burdensome doctrines, and they sought to silence him by killing him. (Matthew 12:9-14)
This is the same mindset of the Watchtower leaders and overseers. In essence, what they are saying is: “How dare you think with your own mind! The Governing Body has already done all the thinking for you! If you continue to think, we will have to disfellowship you!” This is why so many intelligent and spiritually hungry Jehovah’s Witnesses suffer from depression. Their God-given intelligence is being suppressed and even oppressed. They are like strong bulls being forced to plow alongside ignorant and less intelligent donkeys. (Deuteronomy 22:10) Nothing but frustration can come from such an uneven yoking.
We suggest what the Bible suggests. Follow the example of Jesus as ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6), and the example of the Beroeans who examined the scriptures to make sure of the things you are being taught. (Acts 17:11) And remember the counsel of John not to believe every inspired expression, but to test such teachings to make sure they line up with truth (1 John 4:1), and the counsel of Paul not to be led astray by various and strange teachings (Hebrews 13:9)
Of course, by doing so, you may be subject to the same type of punishment as was inflicted on those in the 1st century who dared to think with their own minds. They were expelled from the synagogues and treated like lepers which resulted in them losing the association of their family and friends. (John 9:22; John 16:2) But they gladly accepted the consequences of confessing union with Jesus which included being baptized into his death. (Romans 6:3-4)
No one wants to be disfellowshiped and not many want the stigma of disassociating either. But these are the consequences for those who once subjected themselves to the Watchtower authority by being baptized into the organization. We must all reap what we have sown (Galatians 6:7-8) and carry our own torture stakes. (Matthew 16:24) We will not be excused from accountability for our own free will decisions. What is most unfortunate is that many Witnesses were baptized as children who were unequipped to enter into a loyalty contract with the Watchtower organization. But they, too, must accept the consequences.
The good news is, when we choose the Christ and his plain and open teachings, we will gain far more than we lose, both in this system and in that to come. (Matthew 19:29) All who love truth will have to eventually separate from those who do not truly believe Jesus’ teachings, and then allow Jehovah to take us in as his faith sons. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
We do not envy your position. You will face a dark night of doubt, but if you move forward in faith, you will see the bright light of truth, liberty and freedom. (John 8:32) We hope you can find the comfort of the psalmist:
“Though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear no harm, For you are with me; Your rod and your staff reassure me. You prepare a table for me before my enemies. You refresh my head with oil; My cup is well-filled. Surely goodness and loyal love will pursue me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of Jehovah for all my days.”
– Psalms 23:4-6
All who take the leap of faith and trust in Jesus’ plain and open teachings, instead of the babel of men, will find themselves in the Father’s house of many, many dwelling places that Jesus has prepared for us where we will dwell eternally. (John 14:1-2)
In the meantime, you will be in our prayers and we hope to hear from you again.