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The Prophets of Deuteronomy

Prophets are a tricky bunch. You never quite know what they'll do. They are not guys like us that leave home at 8 and return at 5. They're more....um....eclectic.

There are ten instances of the word “prophet” in the book of Deuteronomy, mainly clustered in two places. Best we take a look at them.

Deuteronomy chapter 13

In case a prophet or a dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and does give you a sign or a portent, and the sign or the portent does come true of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to the dreamer of that dream, because Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you are loving Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul. After Jehovah your God you should walk, and him you should fear, and his commandments you should keep, and to his voice you should listen, and him you should serve, and to him you should cling. And that prophet or that dreamer of the dream should be put to death, because he has spoken of revolt against Jehovah your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt….vs. 1-5

Now, It’s been a long time since we came out of the land of Egypt. Nonetheless, what are we to make of this passage? The message gives cause for distrust: “Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known.” Yet the sign “does come true.” It almost doesn’t seem fair, does it? Why can’t the sign fizzle? Instead, it comes true, and “Jehovah your God is testing you.” [!]

Might the peace and security proclamation of 1 Thessalonians qualify as a Deuteronomy “testing” sign that “does come true,” yet invites us to “walk after other gods?” Every Witness of Jehovah knows this passage:

For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape. 1 Thes 5:2-3

Over the years, there’s been a JW culture of peeking behind this or that headline to see if “peace and security” is brewing or even if it's hinted at. It won’t be real peace and security, we all understand, but some unexpected development will apparently resemble it closely enough so that most persons will swoon in ecstasy over what human governments have accomplished. It is not what it appears to be, however. Rather, it’s the last dancer to leave the floor, after which “sudden destruction” is “instantly upon them.” Small wonder the scripture fuels speculation!

But if the majority hoohaw, hi-five, and celebrate, Jehovah’s people see it as a sign that “comes true” yet points to “other gods:” those of human rulership, in exact contradiction to what the Bible says everywhere else about manmade governments. To use the quaint wording of Deuteronomy, God is “testing” us and we try to keep alert so as not to be thrown off track.

Deuteronomy Chapter 18:

However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.    vs 20-22

At first glance, this passage may seem worrisome for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have they not expected the end of this system to come in 1975? And before that in 1914? Um….does that make them false prophets who should (gulp)....die? Some on the internet act as though they'd be glad to pull the switch. You have to be careful, however, because soreheads pad the numbers. I've seen the charge made on the web, for instance, that Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted 1994 as an “end date.” It’s news to me. I was in the thick of things all those years, and never heard of it. I suppose someone somewhere must have thought it, unless it’s totally made up, but it sure never came to my attention, and it certainly was never in print.

There’s a difference between originating a false prophesy and misinterpreting an existing one. Jim Jones and that guy in Waco originated false prophesies.....God revealed stuff to them, they said. But what JWs have done is more akin to misreading a map. They haven't made up prophesies; they've misinterpreted existing ones. The 1975 and before that, the 1914, dates are presented in Watchtower publications with elaborate (though incorrect) scriptural reasoning. Especially in the case of 1914, it still remains a date of some significance, but it wasn’t…um…the end of this system. So….uh….yeah, it does leave egg on your face. You do sort of regret it afterwards, yet in view of what the scriptures say about “keeping on the watch,” perhaps it’s understandable:

It's pretty much like the sprinter at the Olympics who “jumps the gun.” You don’t want to do it routinely, of course, but nobody holds it against the fellow who does it once or twice. They’re human, we all say. In fact, you even wonder about the racer who never does it. Is he really keeping “on the watch?”

Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch. Therefore keep on the watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day or at midnight or at cockcrowing or early in the morning; in order that when he arrives suddenly, he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.”    Mark 13:33-37
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It was a District Convention in the summer of 1975. In New York City. Wasn’t it at some racetrack? This was back when (unlike today) the sound quality was seldom very good and you really had to listen sharp. Nixon had just resigned over Watergate, and Ford had stepped in to replace him. Watergate had been traumatic, and so Ford wanted to reassure the country. Was it his inaugural address where he said  “peace and security” would prevail from this point on?! It was huge headlines that morning in the New York Daily News. The convention speaker, working a theme about the urgency of the times (remember, this was 1975) held up the paper and bellowed: “Have you seen today’s headline?!”

It was irresistible. I would have done it, too. Though I do remember thinking “uh oh” at the time. So maybe I wouldn’t have. At any rate, I’m sure he’s kicked himself since.

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Comments

Victrix

I'm enjoying reading your blog. Good points about misinterpeting Bible prophecy.

When Jesus' apostles saw him after his ressurection they mistakenly thought that the kingdom was going to be restored there in earthly Jerusalem at that time, and asked him if it was to be so. Jesus basically told them that it wasn't any of their business to find out the times and seasons that Jehovah has placed in his own jurisdiction.

Because they did not understand Bible prophecy at that time, or how it would be fulfilled did not mean they didn't have the truth, or were false prophets, any more than Jehovah's slave today when it makes wrong assumptions concerning certain scriptures, which Jehovah had not yet felt time for them to be revealed.


Jesus said his "faithful slave" would be feeding his domestics when he arrived. When he did arrive in kingdom glory he certainly did not see any of the warring nations of hypocrical Christendom feeding the people spiritual food. This feeding work is mainly done through Bible-based publications.

But the International Bible Students were feeding Jesus' domestics by means of The Wathtower among other Bible-based publications. This magaizine is still used to this day world-wide to feed Jesus domestics, both of the little flock, and their associate Christian brothers. No other organziation, or religion on earth is doing this. If I am wrong someone correct me, but I have never run across a religious organization that feeds the people Bible-based literature that explains the truth worldwide and offers it to the people free of charge.

I believe one of the reasons that Jehovah hides these things has to do with the overall picture of things, that is, there is an entire spirit realm that is invovled in Bible prophecy as well.

When Jehovah prophized the promsied seed there in Genesis 3:15, no doubt servants of God, and even Satan and his minions were very curious about how this prophecy would play out. We know Satan was very concerned with this prophecy, because when you look at all the pagan religions around them, they have their own depections of this prophecy. I remember seeing an Egyptian depection of Isis crushing the head of a serpent.

Satan is indeed a very intelligent person, and he knows that he "has a short period of time." But he has some scheme concocted that he actually thinks that he will take down this entire system, all life on earth, including God's anointed before his end comes. And it may look like that, for Jesus said if those days weren't cut short all life would be cut off. Indeed a fearful time is ahead for mankind in general.

I'm sorry I'm being long-winded here, but I'd like to add one more thing about predictions and when the time of the end will arrive. 2 Peter 3 is a letter to the congregation of anointed ones(and by their associate Christains). There Peter tells us that "in the last days" ridiculers will come.

That is the last days will last long enough, and the message Jehovah's slave has been publishing the world would go on in human eyes so long that it would become as a joke to those with no spiritual insight. Even some within the congregation have joined the opposers in ridiculing Jehovah's servants for preaching about the coming end of this world (the evil slave class see Matthew 24:48-51.)

So Peter was telling us that the time of the end would be an extended period of time, because according to the wish of their hearts they did not discern the destruction of the former system of things.

So time has dragged on, we're almost in the year 2009, and yet the end has not yet come. What should a Christian who has been patiently awaiting for the end to come think?

Peter continues there in chapter 3 of his second letter:

(2 Peter 3:8-9) . . .However, let this one fact not be escaping YOUR notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. 9 Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.

So the time since 1914 when the "last days" began is really only a small moment for the great timekeeper Jehovah. Jehovah realized that from a human standpoint the time that has passed must seem like a long time, so Peter encourages us to remember that time is of no issue to Jehovah, why a thousand years are to him as but yesterday!

He is slow to act because he is patient. Patient with who? Patient with YOU. Plural. That is to the entire congregation of anointed Christians. Remember he starts chapter 3 off talking to the "beloved ones" that is the anonited congregation. Is this perhaps why more are partaking than before, because Jehovah in his patience and according to his will has waited patiently to fill up the number of the 144,000 on his time schedule, not ours. And he is patient with his new creation, because he doesn't want any of them to loose out on life, he loves them so much. This scripture would obviously encompass their associate Christian brothers as well, but take note, there is no set limit on the great crowd.

Jehovah is not waiting for the full number of the great crowd to come into the organization, he has not predestined a number. But he has predestined, before the founding of the world, the 144,000, and even if he chooses not to know who they will be indiviually, he obviously knows when that number will be complete and all are finally sealed. Then the end will come:

(Revelation 7:2-4) . . .And I saw another angel ascending from the sunrising, having a seal of [the] living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying: “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, . . .

So God's patience with his anointed congregation, and with fulfilling his purpose has made these last days seem to drag on, but at the same time the core foundation of the new world society is being formed, according again to his purpose, to have earth peopled with rightouess and meek humans who love his law.

When the time comes those who are alert will know, for the faithful slave has kept them alert, and have kept alert themselves. Satan will be drawn into the ultimate trap of all times, and Jehovah will win.

tom sheepandgoats

“and the message Jehovah's slave has been publishing the world would go on in human eyes so long that it would become as a joke to those with no spiritual insight.”

I like that observation, Vitrix, and I’m not sure if I ever looked at it just that way. Also…..years ago the observation of the “evil” slave beating his fellows because the master was delaying seemed a bit of a stretch. Today, however, it very obviously applies.

Bill Canaday

One of the things I like about being a JW is the assumption that these things -can- be known. We don't dismiss them as being too mysterious to ever know or kick our selves endlessly for having gotten the calculations wrong once, twice, a half-dozen times.

Nope ... we continue to peer into the Bible, knowing that when the time is ripe, Jehovah WILL grant us understanding of these matters ... and just in time for those who remained alert to take action on them.

tom sheepandgoats

Well put, Bill. I guess I feel the same way, but I would not have thought of putting it as you have.

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